Black Bear

(Illinois Department of Natural Resources photo)

While no sightings have been reported locally, state officials are urging residents to keep their "paws off" of a black bear that has been roaming Illinois over the past several days.

According to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, the black bear was recently seen near Western Illinois.

IDNR biologists and Conservation Police Officers have been closely monitoring the bear since it crossed into Illinois from Wisconsin June 10.

The bear then crossed into Iowa and came back into Illinois in southern Rock Island County, June 18.

Since then, then bear has traveled through northwestern Illinois mostly unbothered until it passed through northwest Henderson County Father’s Day weekend, where officials say more than 300 people gathered to view, follow and harass the bear.

It was last seen June 21 headed south toward Stronghurst in southern Henderson County.

IDNR officials warn residents to leave the bear alone. Black bears, once common in Illinois, were eliminated from the state by 1870.

There are currently no known resident populations of black bear in Illinois, but the potential exists for individuals from existing populations in Missouri and Wisconsin to travel into the state. To date there have been five bears confirmed in Illinois in the past few years and state officials say it is possible that a bear could roam into northern Illinois.

In 2014, a bear was seen and documented near Genoa in DeKalb County. The bear then traveled past Rochelle, Chana and Mt. Morris in Ogle County. It returned to Jo Daviess County by late June that year and several unconfirmed reports were received around other parts of northern Illinois.