PITTSBURG — While residents in Crawford County, may not see African lions or tigers roaming the plains, a bear or two may indeed be a possibility.  

A recent report from The Crawford County Sheriff's office indicates that there have been sightings of black bears in Crawford and neighboring counties.

This isn’t a surprise to wildlife experts who have been seeing more black bears in Kansas over the past few years.

According to Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism spokesman David Jenkins it is not uncommon to occasionally see black bears.

“Numbers are increasing in neighboring states, so we expect to see some of those sub adults coming over the border.” Jenkins said.

The bears seem to find Southeast Kansas a nice place to visit as there is suitable food and cover.

As bear numbers possibly increase in the area there are a few steps residents can do to decrease the risk of a bear visiting their property.

The official website for the Humane Society of the United States suggests the following steps:

Make trash cans as inaccessible as possible. Bring outside cans into a garage, or build an enclosure for them. Residents who are worried about being able to move cans indoors should look into bear proof trash cans. Don’t just bury your compost pile, consider putting a fence around it. Bears love to dig, and have an acute sense of smell. Food scraps and other parts of compost can draw them in, as their sense of smell is seven times greater than a bloodhounds. Clean your barbecue grill after each use. Don’t let drippings stay overnight, and use bleach whenever possible.

Residents should also never feed a bear, as bears fed by humans can become what wildlife experts call ‘nuisance bears’. These have lost their fear of being near humans which can increase the possibility of conflict.

Property owners who see a bear should contact the sheriff's department so it can be properly reported to wildlife authorities. Residents should be aware, but not afraid. Black bears are usually fearful of people, and scare easily.

“Just take precautions,” Jenkins said. “Give them have their space.”

He also wants to caution people against harming the bears.

“They are a protected species,” he said. “People should just call the sheriff and let them get involved.”

Residents also need not be concerned about the safety of the bears. Experts will also be using a “hands-off” approach as much as possible. According to the release, the sheriff's department will not be bothering the bears unless they pose a serious threat to people or property.

— Keesha Hervey is a staff writer at the Morning Sun. She can be emailed at khervey@morningsun.net.