State wildlife officials are tracking a black bear that was first spotted more than a week ago by southern Illinois residents and was most recently seen wandering near a state reservoir.
The Illinois Department of Natural Resources, Conservation Police and local law enforcement began tracking the bear on June 10 when it was spotted in the Monroe County town of Waterloo.
Since then, the bear has been sighted near Mascoutah in Clinton County, near Dubois in Washington County and near Rend Lake, a state reservoir, The Southern Illinoisan in Carbondale reported.
The bear was seen Friday in Franklin County at the Rend Lake spillway east end of the main dam near the village of Rend City, about 75 miles (120 kilometers) southeast of St. Louis, said Kyle Bacon, chief deputy of Franklin County Sheriff’s Office. He said the department issued an alert to residents about the animal's presence.
“We don’t want harm to come to the bear," he said.
Conservation police said it is likely that all the sightings are of the same young, male black bear traveling through the area.
While Illinois does not have an active breeding bear population, neighboring states like Missouri and Wisconsin do, said Illinois Department of Natural Resources spokesperson Tim Schweizer.
“It is not uncommon to see bears from these neighboring states cross briefly into Illinois before returning to their permanent habitat, especially as they look for food and potential mates,” he said.