I hope you've seen photos of the black bear that's been visiting Illinois. In these stressful times, it's good to have such a change of focus.
Before the current trek, the last Illinois Department of Natural Resources black bear sighting was in the Rockford area in 2014 or 2016.
Jonah Meadows, reporting for the local news source Patch, said black bears were common in Illinois when European settlers first arrived. They were wiped out by the mid-1880s.
Meadows wrote that black bears still living in Wisconsin and Missouri occasionally pass through Iowa and Illinois. DNR Captain Laura Petreikis told WGEM News, "They come and visit for a while and they go right back....This is the first one to my knowledge that has traveled as far south as it has."
The black bear has been monitored by DNR since it crossed into Illinois from Wisconsin on June 10. It crossed into Iowa and then returned to southern Rock Island County in Illinois on June 18.
The bear was seen passing through a farmer's field in Henderson County. More than 300 people came out to see it.
This public reaction nearly prompted action from IDNR. District Wildlife Biologist Stefanie Fitzsimmons told Chicago's NBC5, "Whether IDNR must step in and take action to protect public safety is completely dependent on how the public reacts to it."
The black bear was seen June 21 heading toward Stronghurst. It was spotted last Thursday walking across a street in Blandinsville. Torie Thomas took cell phone photos as the bear crossed Route 9.
The bear weighs an estimated 700 to 800 pounds. "I was just in total shock," Thomas told WGEM. "There was a black bear walking in front of my car."
There have also been posted photos of the black bear walking near Augusta. Captain Petreikis said, "Conservation Police will issue tickets and make arrests to ensure the safety of both the public and the bear....Stay a distance away. Don't follow in your vehicle. Don't get out to take pictures."
Reach Patrick Stout by email at email@example.com.