- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 16, 2015

LA CROSSE, Wis. (AP) - Black bear sightings in southwest Wisconsin are becoming more common as the animals have been spreading into new areas and seen bellying up to backyard bird feeders, according to wildlife experts.

The bear population was sparse in the ‘80s, with the animals present mostly above the forested area of central Wisconsin, above Jackson Clark and Juneau counties, said Dave MacFarland, a carnivore specialist with the state Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Management Bureau. But bears can now be found as far south as Richland and Sauk counties, he said.

Bird feeders are one of the more common attractants that lead bears to visit residential areas, MacFarland said.

Marlene Gallup recently spotted a black bear in the yard of her log cabin home in Bergen Township. It was the first bear she had seen on the property, located about 8 miles south of La Crosse, since 2004, she said.

“I couldn’t believe he was sitting there,” she said, adding that she was really excited to see him.

Dan and Marsha Harbin said the first black bear they’ve seen in their backyard appeared about 10 a.m. Monday.

“It was a pure delight,” Marsha Harbin said. “They’re fun to watch. Our dog was in the house, so there was no danger.

“He was about 10 feet from the deck, and kind of playing with the bird feeder. I’m sure it knew we were there, but it wasn’t intimidated by us at all.”

There are more bear sightings around this time of the year because it’s mating season, with more males roaming around and last year’s brood going out on their own as mother bears prepare for a new round of cubs, MacFarland told the La Crosse Tribune (https://bit.ly/1J1KQmw).

The increase in sightings isn’t cause for alarm, he said.

“Bears are afraid of humans, but they are an animal to be respectful of,” MacFarland said. “They are a large carnivore.”

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Information from: La Crosse Tribune, https://www.lacrossetribune.com

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