The Illinois Department of Natural Resources is urging residents to take precautions as a black bear makes its way across the state. The unusual appearance comes as lawmakers approved legislation that would add the bears to the state's list of protected species.
The bear was first spotted in rural Jo Daviess County, outside Galena. Then it popped up in Rockford, and on Wednesday morning it was seen near Genoa, in DeKalb County.
DNR spokesman Chris Young says it's common for young male black bears to go off on their own looking for new feeding areas. This bear has been seen at backyard bird feeders ...
"But so far it's not posed a threat to anyone. So our conservation officers have taken the stance that as long as it's just going on its way — that it's not a threat to anyone — we're leaving it alone."
Young says people in the area where the bear has been seen should avoid approaching it, and take in bird feeders, grills, garbage cans, and dog food. He says bears once abounded in Illinois, but were quite rare by the mid-1800s.
The General Assembly this year approved legislation that would protect black bears, cougars, and gray wolves under the state's wildlife code. But even if the governor signs it, it wouldn't take effect until next year, and landowners could still kill such an animal if it poses an imminent threat.