Iowa DNR believes black bear sightings could continue to increase

Black bear spotted in Dubuque Co. over the last three years
Black bear spotted in Dubuque Co. over the last three years
Published: Apr. 15, 2023 at 8:28 PM CDT
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SHERRILL, Iowa (KCRG) - Earlier this week, a Dubuque County family got a visit from something they never expected, a black bear.

It’s not often bears are seen in Iowa. The Iowa Department of Natural Resources reports only 49 bear spottings in the last 20 years, but the DNR said that number could start to rise.

Cole Lancing and his fiancé Mara Coomes were sitting on their couch in their Sherrill home watching TV when they got a notification on their phone from their infrared trail camera.

“We could just see this big object, and we looked at each other and were like what the heck is that?” Lansing said.

That thing they saw was a lumbering black bear walking on their property. The DNR named the bear “google-eye.” Vince Evelsizer, a furbearer biologist with the DNR, said the bear was spotted in Dubuque County over the last three years.

“That bear has kind of an interesting story,” Evelsizer said.

Evelsizer said black bears were once native to Iowa, but the population dwindled during the turn of the 20th century. He said now, because of strong bear populations in neighboring states, black bears were starting to appear in Iowa once again. If that is the case, he wants people to better understand how to live with black bears.

“Bears have very different personalities,” Evelsizer said. “Some want nothing to do with humans, and then there are some that don’t care if they are seen by everything.”

Evelsizer said “google-eye” has caused some nuisances in the city of Dubuque: digging through garbage and raiding birdfeeders, but he worried that also might put the bear in danger.

“He’s potentially a safety issue for the citizens of Dubuque and for himself,” Evelsizer said.

Evelsizer said pamphlets would be handed out to Dubuque County residents in the next couple of weeks to educate people.

“Put your birdfeeder away for a while, keep your barbecue clean and in a safe storage spot like your garage,” Evelsizer said.

Evelsizer doesn’t want people to be afraid of bears, and the DNR has worked to ensure families like Cole and Mara feel more comfortable with black bears living in the area.

“I just want to see what he’s up to,” Mara said.

Evelsizer said there were no known locations where bear cubs were currently being born in Iowa; however, he said it would be hard to believe it could happen in the near future.