QUINCY — Bruno the bear might be on his journey alone, but he isn't expected to be the last American black bear to find his way south of the Wisconsin-Illinois border.

According to Illinois Department of Natural Resources wildlife biologist Stefanie Fitzsimons, there have been a handful of confirmed black bear sightings in northern Illinois in the past decade. The latest is a rarity because the bear has continued to venture south instead of heading back to the Badger State.

Bruno is on a 400-mile trek from Wisconsin to Missouri in which he passed through the Illinois counties of Hancock, Brown, Adams and Pike in the past week.

"I have no doubt we will see more black bears in the future," said Fitzsimons, who works in the Chicagoland area and studies large carnivores. "Since 2008, it's been slowly getting to be more. It's still a very rare circumstance because the black bear population in Wisconsin is more or a northern population. So they have to travel a little bit a distance just to get to Illinois.

"But they have a very healthy population of black bears up there. This is definitely the last time this will ever happen, but it's not going to be something that is happening every day."

The last notable occurrence came in 2008 when a male black bear was spotted in Jo Daviess County, made his way to Rockford and then Rochelle before turning back and heading north into Wisconsin.

"That's what we figured was going to happen this time with this bear, but it just kept going south," Fitzsimons said.

The week or more Bruno spent in West-Central Illinois was longer than most bears spend in the Land of Lincoln before moving forward.

"None of them stay very long," Fitzsimmons said. "We don't have any real sustainable resources for them, enough habitat for them, at least in northern Illinois."


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