Black bear are drawn to urban settings for easy meals, officials say

Police tranquilize, relocate bear from Beloit neighborhood
Picture of bear in Beloit, posted Beloit Community Facebook page, taken by Dani Nicole Shoemaker.

Since 2008, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has seen an increase in the number of black bears showing up in urban settings in southern Wisconsin.

The bears are following a natural path along the Wisconsin River from the northern part of the state. The river provides a great habitat for bears, and once they arrive in the southern part of the state they continue their search for food.

“They are very much driven by that. There’s no doubt about it. Bear, and all wildlife generally, are very opportunistic. What drives them day to day is food and looking for food,” said Eric Lobner, regional wildlife program supervisor for the DNR.

Last week a young male black bear was discovered in the backyard of a home in Beloit. Lobner said during the spring when food sources natural to bears are not in great supply, they are drawn to easy meals.

“A lot of time, which can be a surprise to some, is that they end up in cities and urban environments because there’s food readily available and that food can sometimes be thrown away in people’s garbage or they could be out feeding some other wildlife and usually it is birds,” Lobner said.

Leaving food out for pets can also attract bears or other wildlife.

The DNR relocated the bear that showed up in Beloit. They try to relocate bears 20-30 miles or more from the urban area where they are captured, but it does not always work.

“Not necessarily. Animals that are so dependent on food sources that are supplied by humans, once they get really acclimated to that they are going to be looking for that again and that brings them back into these urban centers, those urban interfaces, and unfortunately it can really become a bad situation for the bear,” Lobner said.

The DNR tags bears that are relocated and if a bear continually returns to an urban setting eventually the animal is euthanized.

“Unfortunately we have a saying that a fed bear is a dead bear, generally. So when those bear, or other wildlife are getting fed that habituation to humans ultimately results in a poor outcome for that particular wildlife,” Lobner said.