Iowa DNR expects black bear population to grow in some parts of Iowa as breeding season nears

Updated: May. 12, 2021 at 10:03 AM CDT
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - The Iowa Department of Natural Resource says it expects to see wandering black bears set up residence in parts of Iowa in the near future.

The bears are likely coming from Minnesota, Missouri and Wisconsin ahead of breeding season. DNR officials said this has been an annual occurrence each spring since 2014.

While DNR officials say most of Iowa doesn’t have the habitat to support black bears, locations in the northeast, eastern and southern parts of the state do.

“Within the next three to five years, I think we can expect to see cubs show up and a small breeding population become established,” said Vince Evelsizer, furbearer and wetland wildlife research biologist with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR). “If that occurs, we should look to our neighbors in Wisconsin and Minnesota who have learned to live with bears. It won’t be perfect and there will be bumps along the way, but we need to start having conversation about the idea of bears coming back to Iowa, at least in certain places along the Mississippi River and Northeast Iowa where suitable habitat exists.”

DNR officials estimate the black bear population of Wisconsin to be close to 30,000, and Minnesota’s to be 15,000 and Missouri has as many as 1,000.

To minimize potential bear conflicts, officials suggest residents put away things like bird seed and barbecue drip pans in the spring. They also suggest keeping pet food and garbage in places bears can’t access.

There have been 43 confirmed black bears in Iowa, and two to five per year since 2014. Most of the sightings start in late May and continue into July.

The DNR says bears are typically nocturnal but get more active during the June to July breeding season, especially at dawn and dusk.

In June 2020, a black bear was spotted roaming a cornfield in Delmar. DNR officials had to warn residents not to follow the bear, even to take photos from a distance.

“If you encounter a bear, avoid running away,” Evelsizer said. “Instead, back away slowly and cautiously while facing it. Make noise so they know you’re there.”

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