Last June, a black bear captured the hearts and minds of residents in Eastern Iowa. We don't get a lot of bears in Iowa. The ones we do see, like this one last year, are normally just wandering through, making their way back to wherever home is. But that could be changing very soon.

KCRG reports that the Iowa Department of Natural Resources says that it expects some of those wandering black bears, to set up permanent residence here in the state of Iowa. Bears seen in the state are more than likely coming in from states like Minnesota, Missouri, and Wisconsin ahead of the breeding season. The DNR says this has been happening each spring in Iowa since 2014. According to KCRG, officials with the DNR say that most of Iowa doesn't have the proper habitat to support black bears. However, areas in Northeast, Eastern, and Southern Iowa do.

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A research biologist with the DNR says that within the next three to five years, we can expect bear cubs to begin showing up, and a small breeding population established here in Iowa. He added that we need to start having the conversation that bears are on their way back to Iowa, especially along areas near the Mississippi River and Northeast Iowa where the habitat is suitable.

KCR reports that DNR officials estimate the black bear population in Wisconsin to be near 30,000. Minnesota is around 15,000, and Missouri has as many as 1,000 bears. To minimize your chances of a bear encounter, the DNR suggests putting away bird seed and BBQ drip pans. Also, store garbage and pet food in places bears can't gain access to. Bears are on their way back. It's up to Iowans to learn how to live with them.

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