Possible bear sighting in Winfield raises questions

Published: Jan. 23, 2022 at 9:47 PM CST
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - A Winfield home had an unusual visitor earlier this month. The Ring camera on their porch has captured cats and raccoons before but this is the first time the animal it recorded took them by surprise.

“We will forever be looking for it again. We’ll never see it again, but we’ll forever be looking for it,” said homeowner Maverick Osenbaugh.

The video shows the black ball of fur meandering its way down the wooden ramp and into the yard. It was recorded on January 8th, in the middle of the day.

Osenbaugh said, “Didn’t see it until several days after it had happened. I don’t watch all the stuff that happens every day and I had been scrolling back on the camera and was like what is that.”

That’s when the video was sent off to the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks to see if they could identify the creature. Osenbaugh’s hypothesis was a bear cub.

Credit: Maverick Osenbaugh

He said, “The size mainly and the way it was walking. When you do zoom in, you can tell the feet and just the way it walks, it doesn’t walk like a raccoon and it’s pretty fluff.”

The KDWP confirmation came late last week. A wildlife research biologist with the state says it was a process of elimination and that was the most likely possibility at this point. The video was reviewed by experts in Kansas and several other states.

“All are in agreement this animal is injured. I’ve passed this along to local Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks staff so that they’re aware and can respond,” Osenbaugh said reading the email.

Osenbaugh said his main reaction is where was the mom. The camera was only set to record for a minute and didn’t capture where the cub walked off to. Osenbaugh said he has not heard from anyone else seeing the cub. Eyewitness News spoke with KDWP wildlife research biologist Matt Peek Sunday. He said this appearance of a bear cub would be a very unusual situation and raises many questions.

Bears aren’t active this time of year but in dens hibernating. They estimate the cub is a yearly, about a year old, and at that age wouldn’t be independent. Also, Winfield isn’t adjacent to where bear populations are common, the closest in southeast Oklahoma.

“There’s not really a whole lot here where a bear would just wander out of woods,” said Osenbaugh, who lives closer to the northern edge of Winfield but is still largely surrounded by houses.

Peek said some reasons a bear cub could be out on its own is the den was destroyed or disturbed, leading the mother sow and the cub out and possibly getting separated. The cub could also be in poor health. Captivity is another possibility.

Peek said if anyone sights the bear cub again, to reach out to their office or local officials. He advises that if someone sees a cub to not approach it. Even though the video didn’t show a mother bear, it doesn’t mean it’s not nearby.

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