Bear sightings increase in southeast Wisconsin; spotted in Franklin and Wheatland

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SOUTHEAST WISCONSIN (CBS 58) -- People in the Franklin area are advised to be careful after a black bear was spotted near 60th and Ryan Road Tuesday morning.

The bear sighting is the second from the past few days. A bear was also seen in Wheatland in Kenosha County over the weekend.

The state of Wisconsin's black bear population is roughly 24,000 right now, much higher than 30 years ago. And the state DNR says the bear population has been expanding south.

Marco Lopez was driving to work at 5 a.m. Tuesday on Ryan Road when he saw something moving near the trees.

Lopez said, "I saw the one bear. It's like 'really?'"

He took his phone out and shot video for friends and family. It quickly spread on social media.

Lopez said, "Maybe people would say I didn't see the bear, 'you are crazy. It's ridiculous.' No, no. It's real."

The bear crossed Ryan Road and went into a natural area near the Milwaukee County Parks Sports Complex.

At roughly the same time, another person called Franklin police. In a statement Franklin PD said, "the area was checked by police but we were unable to locate the bear." They also said DNR was made aware.

DNR statistics show male black bears can weigh up to 550 pounds, and females can reach 375 pounds. But Marco says the bear he saw was smaller, shorter than him.

He said he wasn't afraid, just surprised. And with good reason: according to a DNR density map, sightings in southeastern Wisconsin are virtually nonexistent.

But the Franklin sighting was the second in just a few days. A bear was spotted in Wheatland in Kenosha County over the weekend.

The Franklin sighting brought out some people trying to catch a glimpse.

Steve Lambert drove by and said, "I live right down the road. I saw it on Facebook and I've been seeing it in the area in a couple different counties. Miles away but not in this area. But now I'm looking for it."

But DNR reminds people to be careful to avoid potential conflicts. Lambert said, "I would like to see it, but it's pretty scary. And my dog probably wouldn't be too happy, either."

DNR says bears are normally solitary forest animals that usually try to avoid people, but their powerful sense of smell can lead them into urban areas in search of food. Bear sightings are most common in the northern half of the state, but populations have been expanding south over the last decade.

It's not known if the bear seen in Franklin Tuesday morning is the same bear seen in Wheatland over the weekend.

The DNR is reminding the public to take precautions to avoid potential conflicts with black bears. CLICK HERE for more on what to do if you come in contact with a bear, how to avoid attracting bears, and more.

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