In last week’s issue of the Richland Observer we ran a photo of a bear that had been posted on Facebook that was said to have been seen on South Street in Richland Center. A message was sent to the person who posted the photo, but by press time no response was received and the local authorities said no reports had been received of a bear sighted in the city. Some of us at the newspaper office questioned whether the photo was authentic, partly because of the large number of hoaxes on Facebook (and on the Internet in general). Some of us thought the image in the photo resembled “shadow” lawn ornaments. (See accompanying photos.)
After the photo and article printed we heard from several people and are now convinced the sighting was authentic. The woman who took the photo, which was reposted by others on Facebook, spoke with Observer staff and said that she had people questioning her about the photo to the point that it became disheartening. “I’m not trying to scare anybody,” she said. “It’s a black bear, not a UFO. People need to know they’re here. Respect them, give them distance and they’ll leave you alone.”
She said people she knows told her they saw the bear that day on Haseltine Street and on County Hwy. N. In fact, her nearby neighbor caught images of the bear on his trail camera.
She said she took photos of the bear (two of which are shown with this article) through her garage window, which helps to account for their relative lack of clarity. She said, “I feel lucky to have seen it. I may never again.”
A woman who lives near the Richland Center landfill called the Observer to say that she saw a bear last Tuesday evening, the same day as the other sighting. She said it came up on her deck, but ran away when her husband yelled at it. The woman says that people she knows told her they saw the bear at the landfill. She also said that a bear came on their deck another time, several years ago.
Observer readers from a rural area sent photos (one of which appears with this article) and the following comments. “Even though we live just over the Sauk County line (east of Bear Valley), you may be interested to know that I saw a bear in my front yard on June 5. It stayed for about 15 minutes (there wasn’t seed in the bird feeder) and hasn’t been around here since, as far as we know. The photos were taken from inside the house. The bird feeder is 5’7” tall.”
We at the Observer know that, although relatively rare, bear sightings have been made in Richland Center. We recall a time, several years, ago when bears were seen near The Richland Hospital.
Last week, with the photo being sent to us directly before deadline, we had little time to investigate its veracity and ran the photo with the headline “Real – or hoax?”
We now assert that we believe the photo is genuine and we regret that the photographer was questioned by a number of people.