Bear sighted near Union Grove

Wildlife biologist says animal likely wandered from home territory outside Iowa

T-R PHOTOS BY ADAM SODDERS Several thousand feet into a northern Tama County cornfield southwest of Union Grove State Park, a black bear could be seen meandering its way through the countryside. INSET: Dozens gathered along Tama County back roads Monday to catch a glimpse of a rare sight in Central Iowa: a black bear wandering through a farm field.

GLADBROOK — A burly, furry black bear is a foreign sight to many Central Iowans, especially in the middle of a cornfield.

Cameras clicked and children got on the shoulders of their older siblings to get a better look at large animal as it trotted across the northern Tama County field Monday afternoon.

“It’s probably pretty unique, I don’t remember the last time one was in Tama County, but I would say it seems like about once a year we get a report of a bear somewhere in Iowa,” said Iowa Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Biologist Tim Thompson, whose jurisdiction includes Tama County.

Thompson said it’s important to enjoy the rare sight from a distance.

“Don’t go up and try to feed it, don’t see how close you can get for a picture,” he said. “They are protected, so it’s illegal to go shoot it.”

Many south of Union Grove State Park Monday taking in the sight that afternoon wondered aloud where the bear had come from and where it was going.

“The single bear is probably a younger male that got booted out of its territory,” Thompson said. “Occasionally, we’ve had females come down with cubs, but typically that’s later in the year.”

He said most bear sightings in Iowa are of animals that wander down from Minnesota or Wisconsin after losing their home territory.

“It’s not going to find what it’s looking for, that is, another bear, so it’s going to keep going until it gets back to the right home range and the right habitat,” Thompson said, adding the DNR and other government entities typically allow the bear to make its way back to its home range outside of the state.

Though it is very rare, Thompson said there are some things to keep in mind in case a person comes face-to-face with one of the large mammals.

“If someone encounters it close, try to back off, but don’t look like you’re running and afraid,” he said. “With any wild animal, I tell people just give them a way to get away.”

Monday afternoon’s sighting in Tama County follows similar reports Sunday evening of a “bear cub” near Wellsburg, about 34 miles north of Union Grove State Park.

For more information on black bears and other animals that sometimes wander into the state, go to www.iowadnr.gov/Conservation/Iowas-Wildlife/Occasional-Wildlife-Visitors