ELDRIDGE — A black bear that has been spotted wandering through Eastern Iowa cornfields is drawing crowds of people, potentially posing a danger to the animal as well as tickets for those seeking a glimpse of the bear.
The adult bear showed up in cornfields in Clinton and Scott counties in the past few days and has been spotted munching on corn and taking frequent naps. Bears once were native to Iowa, but now mainly inhabit the north woods of Wisconsin and Minnesota as well as parts of South Dakota.
The bear likely made its way to Eastern Iowa via the Wapsipinicon River, which flows from southeastern Minnesota through Eastern Iowa to the Mississippi River, officials said. It last was spotted in a field near Eldridge, and photos of it have been popular on social media.
Sightseers are getting too close to the bear and are interfering with efforts to let it head back north, so officers could issue citations, said Jeff Harrison, an Iowa Department of Natural Resources officer. There are concerns the bear could wander over to Interstate 80, where it would be a hazard to motorists.
If that happens, officers may have to kill the animal. Officers also are considering shooting the bear with tranquilizing darts then driving it to forested areas along the Mississippi River in northeast Iowa.
“Unfortunately with social media, everybody that has seen the bear wants to photograph the bear, wants to take part with the bear,” Harrison said. “What they would do is follow it, track it, stalk it.”
Harrison said bear sightings in Iowa have increased in recent years, though he’s never seen one in Scott County.
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“In the last five years, we’re probably receiving two to three reports a year now, whereas 10 years ago maybe once every two years,” he said.