The Indiana Department of Natural Resources recently recovered the body of a black bear north of Bristol in Elkhart County.
The bear was found near a toll road and was in an advanced state of decomposition. DNR staff delivered the remains to the Indiana Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory at Purdue for necropsy to determine cause of death. Preliminary results revealed the bear had many fractured bones and injuries that DNR mammalogist Brad Westrich said are consistent with a vehicle collision.
“It is unfortunate that for many in Elkhart County this was their first experience observing a black bear,” Westrich said. “It’s well documented that wild animals are commonly killed on roadways, and it’s a shame that Indiana’s fifth black bear in modern history met this fate.”
DNR had not received reports of black bears in the area before finding this bear.
Hair and tissue samples will be analyzed to determine where the black bear originated. It was not the same black bear that had previously visited southern Indiana earlier this summer. Bear reports in that region have stopped coming to Indiana DNR, and Westrich said it has probably moved on to Kentucky, based on confirmed sightings received from Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources.
Although black bears were once common in Indiana, there hasn’t been a resident population since before the Civil War. Until 2015, there hadn’t been a confirmed report of a black bear in Indiana since 1871.
Unregulated hunting and habitat loss caused black bears to be eliminated from Indiana and much of the Midwest by 1850.
Black bears have recently been entering Indiana from neighboring states, a clear sign that bear populations in those states are increasing and Indiana habitat is attractive to bears.
Black bears are native to Indiana and are listed as a species of special concern. They are protected under Indiana law, which prohibits the taking of a black bear except under certain conditions and by a permit issued only by the Indiana DNR.
Report bear sightings to the Indiana Division of Fish & Wildlife.