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Iowa woman photographs, films bear at her bird feeder

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OSAGE, Iowa — Diane Steffen couldn’t believe she actually had a black bear in her backyard near Osage.

The unexpected encounter occurred at around 10:30 a.m. Saturday while her husband, Dean, was in town at the public library.

Steffen was walking into her kitchen when she looked out the window and noticed one of her birdfeeders was tipped over.

She walked closer to get a better look.

“I looked down and there was a black bear,” said Steffen. “I actually looked away and looked back to see if it was really true.”

The bear was approximately 15 feet from the house when Steffen first spotted it.

The young, male black bear, estimated to be between 150 and 200 pounds, was enjoying some grape jelly from a feeder.

The bear then proceeded to eat from their three hummingbird feeders, bug catcher, birdhouse and some bird nests just north of the house.

“He was eating and wandering around for about 15 minutes,” she said.

During this time, Steffen was able to stay calm and take several photos as well as a video of the encounter.

“I was at the library when Diane called me,” said Dean. “I asked her what was wrong. She told me there was a bear at the house. I didn’t believe her.”

Steffen hurried home in time to see the bear trying to eat from a bluebird nest.

“Dean yelled and the bear took off to the northeast from the house,” said Steffen. “From the pictures, we can tell he was at least 6 feet tall.”

The Steffens contacted Iowa Department of Natural Resource’s law enforcement officer Eric Johnston.

“He was glad we contacted him first before anyone else,” said Dean. “He said with our pictures it was ‘proof positive’ that there were bears in the area.”

“We have more problems with people getting excited around bears than having actual problems with the bears,” said Johnston.

Johnston said he believes the bear at the Steffen residence is not the same bear spotted in the Dubuque area or the one in the Cedar Falls area.

Johnston said he was pretty certain the bear spotted over the weekend at the George Wyatt Park campground at Rockford was the same bear.

“Our reports indicated a bear was traveling west to Rockwell then to Rockford, was spotted crossing Dancer Avenue and then, the next day, showed up at Dean’s,” said Johnston.

Johnston said he alerted the southeastern Minnesota DNR officer of a bear possibly coming through his area.

“I received a phone call from him Tuesday stating that a young, male black bear was spotted between Lyle, Minn., and Chester, Iowa,” said Johnston.

There is a large bear population in northern Wisconsin, and the assumption is the dominant male bears are causing the younger male bears to roam in the spring, Johnston added.

“It isn’t uncommon for us to hear about bears in Mitchell and Floyd counties,” said Johnston. “We usually have sightings every couple of years. We are just hearing about more than usual this year.”

Dean said none of his neighbors to the north have reported damage to their properties.

Johnston said Diane Steffen did the best thing by staying in the house and watching through her window.

“I would have done the same thing,” he said. “I would encourage people to just watch what the bears are doing, and if they are causing any destruction give us a call. Always keep your distance.

“We (Iowa DNR) don’t do anything with the bears, we just like to track them.”

“We have traveled thousands of miles to see bears, and here we have one in our own backyard,” said Dean. “What are the chances of that ever happening?”

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