VESPER – A photo taken by a local 10-year-old and shared online this week of a close encounter with a black bear appearing to stare into her family’s home spurred a slew of reactions.
Some commenters shared descriptions and photos of their own black bear sightings, while others created comical captions about a telemarketer checking on the family’s extended vehicle warranty and referencing Yogi Bear and the Chicago Bears-Green Bay Packers rivalry (and, yes, Aaron Rodgers, the bear was asking about you!).
Briahna Lang of Vesper was at her Oak Road home earlier this summer when she said her sister noticed the bear and alerted her and their mom. And there it was, outside the patio window eating her mom’s flowers, Briahna said.
Her mom, Megan, yelled for Briahna to grab her phone to get a photo of the backyard intruder.
Briahna said the bear then ran to the front of the house and in the photo appears to be staring at her through the living room window.
They said they don’t know if the bear actually saw Briahna on the other side of the glass, or if it was looking at its own reflection.
“I was kind of scared, but I knew there was a bear around,” Briahna said.
Briahna shared the photo with friends through text messaging, and “everybody was asking ‘Were you scared?’ and saying ‘That’s cool,'” she said.
It wasn’t the first time the family had seen the bear at their home. After a bear had destroyed their bird feeder, they put up cameras to capture the furry vandal. Relatives who live nearby also have seen the bear, they said.
The family says they haven’t seen the bear since the photo was taken, but they have seen signs that it has been in their yard again.
Bear population in Wisconsin is growing
Bear sightings in central Wisconsin are not rare. There are more than 28,000 black bears in the state and their population is growing, according to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. They most commonly are found in northern and central Wisconsin, but their range is expanding, the DNR said.
A quick examination of police blotters from the past month in Wood County showed reports of a bear sighting in Hewitt, and car vs. bear crashes in Milladore and the town of Seneca. Farther north, the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office reported two car vs. bear crashes in one week in June. And photos of neighborhood bear sightings can often be found on social media.
While most bear sightings occur in rural areas they are not unheard of within city limits.
In May 2017, a black bear that made its way into Wisconsin Rapids and climbed a tree along East Riverview Expressway became a local sensation, and in November 2018, a bear strolling past Blue Heron Brewpub in downtown Marshfield caught diners’ attention. In April 2016, a black bear wandered through the Aspirus Wausau Hospital campus.
What to do if you see a bear
The DNR urges residents to take these steps to prevent or stop nuisance bear issues:
- Remove bird feeders if bears are observed in the area. The safest thing to do is to feed birds only in winter when bears are in their dens. If you choose to place bird feeders during warmer months, they should be brought in at night and made inaccessible to bears.
- Garbage cans should be clean, closed tightly and, if possible, kept inside a garage or shed.
- Composting in known bear territory may present a risk unless compost is properly covered.
- Pet food should be kept indoors, especially at night.
- Outdoor grills should be cleaned and stored after use.
- If you see a bear, it is important to harass it. Place yourself in a secure area so the bear has a clear escape path. Make a lot of noise by yelling, honking a car horn or banging pots and pans. You can also install motion-activated water sprinklers, lights or alarms.
If these efforts don’t work or if bears are demonstrating abnormally bold behavior, contact U.S. Department of Agriculture-Wildlife Services to conduct an investigation. Leave a message if no one answers the phone. In northern Wisconsin, call 800-228-1368; and in southern Wisconsin, call 800-433-0663.