Lions, boars and bears … oh, my! It’s no secret that rumors can spread quicker than a wind-swept wildfire. But are all supposed sightings of these critters actually rumors?
“We get many calls from people who think they have seen animals that are normally non-existent in our state,” says Bill Bean, north public land supervisor for the DNR.
Notice he did say “normally.” Bean has been a wildlife biologist for 40 years and has heard it all.
It wasn’t that long ago people began talking about wild boars taking up residence in southern Indiana. It actually became the best worst-kept secret. But before you sharpen that pig-sticker and fire up the roaster, understand that for the time being, it is estimated there are less than 75 of the partying pigs roaming a small portion of Warrick County.
It all began when a particular property owner decided it was a good idea to release a few wild boars, purchased from a dealer in the southeastern US. His idea was to have a hog hunt on his property without traveling out of state.
According to my friends at the DNR, the porkers took a liking to Indiana’s landscape and established a breeding population. The DNR is unhappy because feral pigs have the potential to quickly become a problem for native plants and wildlife. Farmers and veterinarians also are unhappy because these free-roaming swine also could spread diseases. But the fact remains — we do now have wild boars in Indiana.
Next it was mountain lions. For years rumors spread about big cats roaming the southern part of the state. They were dispelled as rumors — until several years back.
It was 2010 when reports surfaced of a mountain lion slinking through rural Clay County. A DNR biologist investigating the sighting decided to set up motion-sensitive trail cameras. In less than 24 hours, the camera captured multiple images of the cat’s existence. Where the mountain lion actually came from is anyone’s guess. Some believed the cat had been pen-raised and was on the lam. Interestingly enough, biologists had found a deer carcass that exhibited all the traits of a lion kill, proving the cat knew how to effectively hunt.
Again, for several years, gossip swirled that the DNR had secretly released black bears in desolate portions of southern Indiana as a way to help reduce our state’s growing deer population. After all, black bears have deer fawns on their menu, especially in the spring. However, the DNR staunchly admits their only means of keeping our resident deer population in check is through regulated hunting.
But, not long ago, reports surfaced about a man who had a videotape of a black bear taken in Jackson County, near the Muscatatuck National Wildlife Refuge. A conservation officer was sent to investigate his story. It didn’t take long for other DNR officials to view the tape. They confirmed it was indeed a black bear. But how it got there remains a mystery.
“I would never say it’s impossible,” said Bean, when asked about reports of wildlife species not seen in our state for decades. “But I doubt any viable population of mountain lions or bears exist in Indiana.”
On a smaller scale and even closer to home, Kenny Taylor along with Don and Patty Wilson recently spotted a snowy owl just north of Kokomo. These beautiful birds of prey normally reside in the arctic where their primary food consists of lemmings. To see one this far south is an extremely rare occurrence.
Now talks have surfaced of gray wolves roaming heavily wooded portions of southern Indiana. First hearing these, I had to laugh out loud. But after careful consideration I think I’ll take a wait-and-see attitude. After all, it seems as of lately, anything is possible!
Spots are still available for a Kokomo Parks Department-sponsored DNR certified Hunter education class. The free program will be held March 17 from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. and again March 18 from noon to 4 p.m. Class sessions will take place at the Kirkendall Nature Center, located in Jackson Morrow Park.
To receive a lifetime certification as a successful graduate of the Hunter Ed program, students must complete the 10 hours of classroom instruction and score a minimum 70 percent correct on the final exam.
Students can register by contacting the Parks Office during normal business hours at 765-456-7275.
Benefit Concert for Local Youth
If you are looking for an enjoyable evening while helping area youth, here is a perfect opportunity. The Phi Delta Kappa will host its ninth annual Jim “Moose” Carden Kids Fishing Clinic Benefit Concert. The evening will start with music from “Blooze Faktor” and “Soul Taxi.” Door prizes and silent auction also will be provided to those in attendance.
The event will be held March 10 beginning at 8 p.m. Tickets are modestly priced at $5 and may be obtained by contacting Craig Carter at 765-455-0100 or 765-438-1193.
Proceeds will go to the purchase of fishing tackle and safety-related items to children who will take part in this summer’s 29th annual Jim “Moose” Carden Kids Fishing Clinic.
This year at the Phi Delta Kappa benefit concert as well as this summer’s Jim “Moose” Carden Kids Fishing Clinic a special person will be sadly missed. Due to an unforeseen illness, Denny Bales took his last breath several weeks back.
Bales’ life revolved around children — all children. For decades he unselfishly served as a boat captain and major contributor for Kokomo’s nationally recognized Kids Clinic. He never wanted any type of acknowledgment for his good deeds.
During his viewing, the thousands who stopped by to pay their final respects was a true testament to a great person. The fact that so many gathered to celebrate his life says much more about him, and his kindness, than mere words.
Although he will be mourned by many, his family will, of course, miss him most of all. I hope they will all take some comfort in knowing so many others too will miss him for many different reasons.
• John Martino is the Tribune’s outdoors columnist. He may be reached by email at email@example.com.