Bears Are on The Move, Second Black Bear Sighting in Lake County in Less Than a Week

A second bear sighting in Lake County in less than a week has locals wondering whether they need to stock up on bear spray.

Over the weekend, a homeowner in unincorporated Antioch heard a crash on her deck and was surprised to come face to face with a bear when she investigated.

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"I went to the door. He's just standing there, looking at me," Natalie Fields told ABC-7

Wildlife biologists believe the Antioch bear is likely the same black bear that was seen in Gurnee last week, according to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR), which added that bears are known to travel long distances.

"This particular bear has not caused any problems," IDNR said, and encouraged people to let it "continue its movement without interference."

The Lake County Sheriff's Office initially told residents the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) would attempt to track down, tranquilize and relocate the Antioch bear, but later took back that statement. 

"Large visitors like the bear are becoming more common," sheriff's officials said.

A black bear seen in unincorporated Antioch, June 2023. (Lake County IL Sheriff's Office / Facebook)A black bear seen in unincorporated Antioch, June 2023. (Lake County IL Sheriff's Office / Facebook)

Bears once roamed freely in Illinois but were eliminated from the state by 1870. According to IDNR, there are no resident black bear populations in the state, but they do wander over the border from Wisconsin and Missouri from time to time.

Wisconsin's black bear population has been growing steadily since the 1980s and is now estimated at 24,000 bears. The bears are considered common in central Wisconsin and "abundant" in northern regions, according to the Wisconsin DNR.

Wisconsin's bears began emerging from hibernation in April. At the time, wildlife officials recommended that residents remove tempting food sources from outdoor areas, including bird feeders, in order to avoid unwanted visitors.

That crash in Antioch? It was the bear pulling down a bird feeder.

IDNR recommends that people who live in the vicinity of a confirmed bear sighting secure their garbage cans and barbecue grills indoors and stop feeding birds for a few days.

The latest sighting is the eighth in Illinois since 2008, and the third this year. Anyone who sees a bear — or a mountain lion or wolf — should report it to IDNR.

Black bears may not be hunted, killed or harassed unless there is an imminent threat to person or property. If you come across a black bear, IDNR's top piece of advice is "don't run." Stand your ground, make yourself as big as possible and slowly back away. 

This article originally published June 12 and has been updated with new information.

Contact Patty Wetli: @pattywetli | (773) 509-5623 |  [email protected]

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