Has another bear made its way into southwestern Illinois?
A Godfrey Parks employee believes he spotted a small black bear at LaVista Park off Illinois 3.
Godfrey Mayor Mike McCormick said the parks employee, a police officer with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and the village's animal control officer are meeting Tuesday morning to investigate the sighting.
"That's the only sighting of the bear," McCormick said Tuesday morning. "I'm waiting now to get a report. He's (the parks employee) going to show the Illinois Department of Natural Resources officer where the sighting was and they're going to investigate from there, along with our animal control officer. I feel very confident if he said it was a bear, it's a bear."
McCormick said the village issued a press release about the sighting Monday to keep the community informed.
"The reason we put a press release out yesterday was so people could be aware of it. We don't want to scare anybody, but you have to be careful with them. People just have to be aware," he said.
McCormick added a bear sighting would not be surprising.
"I grew up in Belleville, and when I was a kid, there weren't any deer around ... I think the bears are going to be a similar thing. Their population is growing and they're expanding their territory," he said.
This is just the latest bear sighting in southwestern Illinois. Last month, a bear was initially spotted in Monroe County before making his way to Clinton, Washington, Franklin and then White counties.
While investigating those sightings, IDNR Police Officer Don Schachner said the bear likely came from Missouri. He added that Arkansas has a sizable black bear population that has spread into Missouri and gradually ventured into Illinois.
"The black bear population has been expanding at a decent rate. We knew it was just a matter of time until they worked their way into Illinois," he said.
He also offered several tips when encountering a bear.
"Once bears start associating people with food, they lose their fear of people and start to approach people," Schachner said previously. "Right now, if we ever get a sustained population here — we're a ways from that — the biggest thing is to be bear aware.
"Don't leave your cat or dog out. Don't intentionally feed them. Don't crowd them. Enjoy them from a distance. Don't take your trash out until the day of. If you follow those guidelines, you don't have much to worry about."