The black bear caught on camera July 5 in the Black Hills is real, but it was likely just a tourist.
The South Dakota Department of Game, Fish & Parks verified a photo submitted by Jonathan Deuter, a hunter who enjoys wildlife art. The bear photos were automatically snapped by Deuter's motion-sensing trail camera.
Deuter, of Black Hawk, said his trail camera captured three images of the bear in the woods near Rochford.
GF&P officers determined the photo was authentic by having Deuter take them to the site where the photo was shot. A slanting tree and other vegetation in the photo helped confirm the location and that the bear actually was in the Black Hills, not in a wooded area in another state, said John Kanta, GF&P regional wildlife manager.
"We have no reason not to believe the individual, but with everybody we like to ground truth (the photo) so we know what we're looking at," Kanta said.
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Bears are native to the Black Hills, Kanta said. "Based on past experience, we believe (this bear) is moving on through," he said. "I won't be surprised if we have a bear hanging around (in the Hills), but to date we have not documented that."
Bear sightings are most likely to occur in spring, summer and into autumn. Bears are most active in late summer and early autumn when they're building up reserves as they prepare for winter hibernation, Kanta said.
Anyone who sees a bear is asked to use caution and to contact the GF&P.
"We tell people if they see a bear or (signs of a bear), contact us right away," Kanta said. "There shouldn't be reason to be concerned. If they see a bear, observe it from a distance. Don't approach it. Give it its space."
Reporting bear sightings to the GF&P will allow the department to document sightings and track the possibility of whether one or more bears are alive and have a habitat in the Black Hills, Kanta said.