Cheryl Balensiefen took these photos of a bear just southwest of Buda in Macon Township on Dec. 30 while her husband Kent drove. Originally, I gave credit to Kent, but after a nice chat with him this morning, I clarified that.
It is apparently the same bear reported in Bureau County since June.
The basic question remains unanswered: Is it a wild bear? My guess is yes, because of the length of time it was reported. Kent thought it was wild because of the way it survived and acted--avoiding buildings and people.
For years, I have said it makes sense for black bears to be the first of the big three--bears, wolves or mountain lions--to truly establish a base other than roving young males passing through.
Even around Chicago the roving young males have already happened for cougar, famously on the North Side, and for wolves with the one killed by a vehicle near Chain O'Lakes State Park.
Bears, apparently, are no longer extinct in Illinois, much like the cougar, wolf and armidillo.