harold

There are currently 59 species of mammals that are now living in the wild in Indiana. We once had several more, but some that were extirpated are trying to make a comeback in our state.

The porcupine, black bear, gray wolf, fisher, cougar or mountain lion, elk, wolverine, bison and black rat all in pre-settlement days could be found roaming Hoosierland. Add to this list the eastern spotted skunk and red wolf that may have once existed in Indiana, and now the Seminole bat that at least three have recently been found in the southern section of our state and this is a very impressive list.

The list of extirpated mammals that also once called our state home that were killed out also include the white-tailed deer, beaver, river otter and bobcat. All but the bobcat have been reintroduced within the recent past and are now doing quite well. The bobcat has established itself on its own.

While still on the extirpated list cougars, black bear and gray wolf still turn up in the wild in Indiana. I have hundreds of reports of cougars spotted by some very responsible people. At least two black bear have recently been authenticated in Hoosierland and a gray wolf was killed in northern Indiana a few years ago.

Also elk are being raised in elk farms in several places in our state while bison also can be found in some captive herds across the state. In addition, the bison have recently found a home in the Nature Conservancy Nature Preserve at Kankakee Sands in northwestern Indiana and are doing quite well.

Bison and gray wolfs can also be observed living together at the Wolf Farm near Lafayette and it’s something to see how they react together.

A porcupine was reported several years ago at the Pigeon River Fish and Wildlife Area in norther Indiana. It was probably a stray that ventured down from Michigan.

The fisher and wolverine were rare in Hoosierland in the past and the black rat was never welcomed, but the last one was reported in 1845.

So as you can see in spite of man’s best efforts most of the mammals that once roamed our state can still be seen in the wild or in captivity.

Three species that the early settlers probably never had the opportunity to see in Indiana that are now more or less common are the badger, Virginia opossum and coyote. All have either moved into our state in recent years or expanded their range in Indiana.

The opossum came in from the south while the badger and coyote moved in from the west. A recent addition to our Hoosier fauna is the nine-banded armadillo. Several have now been reported from Knox, Daviess, Gibson, Vanderburgh, Posey and Pike counties. They are moving in from the southwest and while only scattered reports from our southwestern counties have been recorded they will probably extend their range further north in a few years.

It seems man does not really know what to do with mammals. We extirpate them then have to reintroduce them again to hunt and trap. If a new or past species appears we either want to get rid of it or try our best to reduce its numbers which is the case with the coyote, while the cougar and black bear are looked upon as a threat to our very existence.

After all in the case of the last two they were here long before we settled Indiana and changed the landscape.

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