GF&P: Black Bear is just passing through; no threat to bear or public

KELOLAND.com Original

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO)- Black bears are a rare sight in South Dakota, but that wasn’t the case in the northeastern part of the state on Tuesday, May 26.

A black bear was spotted seven miles west of Aberdeen by Sheryl Erickson. She told her fiance Allen Luce and he captured the video below:

While there has been some bear activity in northeastern South Dakota in recent years, Game, Fish and Parks Regional Wildlife Supervisor Mike Klosowski says bears aren’t native to the area.

“It is rare to see a black bear here in South Dakota as it offers little bear habitat (they generally prefer large forested areas),” Klosowski said.

Yet, bears seem to be visiting northeastern South Dakota.

“We have seen an uptick in black bear sightings over the last decade (three confirmed sightings in the northeast over the last three years),”Klosowski said.

The GF&P knows that South Dakota is placed between two states that have higher bear populations such as Minnesota and Wyoming.

“We believe we are occasionally seeing young adult bears wondering as they disperse into adulthood,” Klosowski said. “We adopted a black bear response plan a couple years back that manages how we respond to bears roaming in South Dakota.”

South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Bear Response Protocol

“With the information we have at this point, we consider this a level 3 bear which basically means the bear isn’t posing any threat to public safety and we will monitor the bear’s travel through public and staff sightings,” Klosowski said.

While there could be potential danger with a bear, Klosowski thinks this one is just passing through.

“There isn’t any concern with the bear moving through South Dakota at this time. All the information points to a bear that is passing through and avoiding people when observed,” Klosowski said.

Photos courtesy of Mike Scott

While there is little concern about human interaction with the bear, there could be potential concern for the bear’s health and safety.

“In the last known confirmed location, the bear was not in a traditional bear habitat such as a large forested area,” Klosowski said. “Most of SD is not bear habitat and the bear will likely continue to roam until it does find suitable habitat. We believe the bear will be OK until it does find suitable habitat.” 

Luce and Erickson were lucky enough to see a black bear, especially considering the slim chances of a bear sighting in South Dakota.

If you’re lucky enough to see a bear, Klosowski and the Game, Fish and Parks have a simple request for you.

“If the public does see the bear, please contact your local GF&P office. The Watertown GF&P office is the main office in northeastern South Dakota and can be reached at (605) 882-5200,” Klosowski said. “After hours, the public can contact their local Wildlife Conservation Officer… all Wildlife Conservation Officer contact information is online and in the Fishing and hunting handbooks.”

Photos courtesy of Mike Scott

Luce was able to capture a once in a lifetime moment on Tuesday, and that’s exactly what he should’ve done.

“Give us a call if you see the bear (pictures or video would be great if possible; keep your distance and don’t get close to the bear in doing so). Not many South Dakotans get to see a bear so enjoy it if you’re one of the lucky ones!”

You can see the initial story from Tuesday’s sighting and learn more about past bear sightings in South Dakota in the story below:

KELOLAND News’ story from Tuesday, May 26

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