(CBS) — A Rockford area woman got a rude awakening Saturday morning in the form of a black bear in her yard.
Sheryl Hutchinson spotted the bear eating berries from a bush around 10 a.m.
“I was sitting at the breakfast table and he was just three feet outside the window,” said Sheryl Hutchinson.
She says the black bear drained her hummingbird feeder and drank out of a water lily pot. Then stood up to eat some serviceberries. Then left. She says the bear was not being threatening, just looking for food.
“First of all, it really saddens me. I’m a retired science teacher and it hits home the message about what we’re doing to the environment,” said Hutchinson.
Deputies found a paw print on the garage door about six feet off the ground, and a bird feeder in the yard was knocked over, the Winnebago County Sheriff’s department said.
A neighbor had spotted the bear in the neighborhood on Friday evening. State officials said they heard reports of a black bear in the region in recent days.
The sheriff’s department is working with experts on a plan to tranquilize the bear if it is seen again.
In addition to shrinking territory and less food, Illinois Department of Natural Resources Spokesman Chris Young says there’s another aspect behind the bear encounter.
“These are young males that are dispersing from other populations. They’re leaving where they were born. They’re setting out on their own. They’re looking for females to set up housekeeping elsewhere.
“They come to Illinois and they find out that there aren’t any established populations here, so usually they end up leaving and going back where they came from.”
Young says seeing a black bear in Illinois is still a “rare event.” He says a black bear sighted last week in the Galena area may be the same one that was seen near Rockford this weekend.
He says the last time Illinois supported a population of black bears, mountain lions and grey wolves was about 1870.
Legislation to ban the killing of those animals has just passed the general assembly. Young says Governor Quinn is expected to sign it.