These are not the bears that have been roaming around Iron River in recent months. This mother bear and her three tiny cubs (all in a straight line) were spotted July 1 along Wisconsin Highway 70 near Alvin, about 15 miles from Iron River, apparently snacking at an ant hill. They eventually went back into the woods. (Peter Nocerini photo)
IRON RIVER—Did Iron River’s wandering bears read the story about them in the paper, realize that the jig was up and decide to blow town?
Only the mother bear and her three year-old offspring know for sure. But sightings of bears in and around Iron River fell off sharply as soon as the June 18 Reporter, with the front page story about the bear problem, hit the newsstands.
That’s the word from Monica Joseph, wildlife biologist at the DNR’s Crystal Falls field office. She spoke with the Reporter by phone on July 3.
The bears have not been trapped and moved by the DNR, Joseph said. They just haven’t been seen lately.
“After the article, things quieted down,” she said. “We did get more phone calls, so we were more aware of what their patterns were—we were getting the best information we could on where they were.”
Not that it has been totally quiet on the bruin front. In recent weeks, the DNR got reports about a single bear causing problems. “We don’t know if it’s the same one or if the sow and cubs have split—which is what we were anticipating.”
The cubs are over a year old now and are getting pretty big. “In breeding season,” Joseph said, “she would normally push them away.
“Any yearlings kicked out are the most likely to get into trouble—because they are on their own now, and they’re looking for the easy food.”
It’s not known whether the same bear caused both problems or whether it is one of
the grown cubs. Joseph thinks it is, but “We’re just not sure. Ryan, my wildlife assistant, is setting another trap in the area where the latest complaint was.”
But those are the only bear complaints lately. “No reports of the sow that I know of. Just the single bear—which is good.
“If she moved out of town with all three of them, that’s great, too.”
It may indicate that area residents have followed the DNR’s advice and have taken down bird feeders, hummingbird feeders and other sources of food that attract bears.
“That would result in the very thing we see happening—she would go to native foods. Hopefully that’s what happened, but it might be a little early to be absolutely sure.
“But it was very interesting that it seemed to immediately follow the article. I think that awareness helps people know, one, to call us and let us know and, two, to remind them to take down the feeders.”