‘The Bears of Blue River’ … revisited?

Posted on Oct 26 2020 in Outdoors
Photo of black bear

By Jack Spaulding

For more than a century, the tales of frontier teenager Balser Brent and his adventures with bears, guns and Native American treasure along Indiana’s Blue River in the 1800s left generations of young Hoosiers spellbound. But the sad reality for those hoping to track and trap a bear: Black bears had vanished from Indiana long before Hoosier author Charles Major ever wrote about them in the early 1900s.

But now, a black bear has been confirmed by the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife north of Prospect, Kentucky. That’s right across from Clark County, Indiana. Because bears are strong swimmers, the bear may cross the Ohio River into the Hoosier state. According to Brad Westrich, nongame mammologist with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, the sighting is not a cause for alarm but a time to prepare.

“This sighting provides an opportunity for Hoosiers in the area to secure outdoor grills, trash cans, or pet and bird food,” said Westrich. “Black bears prefer to avoid humans and removing potential food sources goes a long way to prevent negative interactions.”

Since 2015, Indiana DNR has confirmed three black bears in the Hoosier state. Populations of black bears in neighboring states continue to increase, so it is not unusual for bears to disperse into Indiana. The deciduous forests and rough terrain in southern Indiana provide great habitat for black bears. DNR urges citizens to be BearWise (bearwise.org) to minimize the possibility of conflict with black bears. 

Individuals are encouraged to report any bear sightings using the DNR’s large mammal online report form at on.IN.gov/largemammal, or by calling DNR Law Enforcement at 812-837-9536. Observations with evidence such as photos, video, tracks, or scat may require a follow-up visit by a DNR biologist for confirmation. More information on
black bears is at wildlife.IN.gov/8500.htm.

JACK SPAULDING is a syndicated state outdoors writer and a member of RushShelby Energy. Readers can email him directly at jackspaulding@hughes.net.