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Iowa DNR urges public to stop following black bear as he moves south

Officials say the bear has crossed Interstate 80 and is heading south.

Iowa Department of Natural Resources officials say the black bear, spotted in Clinton and Scott Counties this week, has crossed Interstate 80 and is heading south.

Conservation Officer Jeff Harrison urging the public to leave the bear alone, as crowding could pose a threat to its safety.

Harrison emphasized that the groups of people going out to see the bear have affected its wandering pattern. 

"We cannot have the circus we had yesterday," Harrison says.

The DNR doesn't plan to intervene unless the bear poses a threat to public safety. Harrison hopes the bear travels north, towards Minnesota or Wisconsin. Otherwise, the DNR may need to tranquilize the bear and transport him to Yellow River State Park.

Harrison says if people don't stay away, the bear wind up in a situation where DNR would have to euthanize it to keep others safe, instead of being able to successfully guide it away.

"We don't want put it down," he says. "It's not his fault he's here and being pushed."

Harrison says officers will be issuing citations to those who get in the bear's way and block traffic. 

Greg Boll and Tim Brandenburg, local wildlife photographers, say they've been able to snap photos of the bear from the distance on Monday near DeWitt when only about a dozen people came to see the animal.

On Tuesday, they say things got out of hand near Long Grove.

"We must've had 200 people there," Brandenburg says. "The cars were packed on both sides, and nobody could get through and people were standing on cars. Thats when chaos broke out, and kids were on ATVs out in the fields." 

Now, the photographers are leaving the bear alone and letting him try and get home. 

"I hope he gets there. He's a beautiful bear and very healthy-looking," Bradenburg says. "There's nothing more that we want for him to get away and enjoy life."

The DNR says it's rare for bears to come into the area and cross the Wapsi River. It's believed that the bear may have boarded a barge to eat some corn and grain on the boat and got stuck.

RELATED: Black bear spotted in Clinton County trades north woods for Iowa cornfields