All six regions of the Pennsylvania Game Commission have reported Black Bear sightings in unusual places. The Northwest region of Pennsylvania holds a natural habitat for Black Bear and Mercer/Venango Counties LMGS Mario L. Piccirilli said, “Pennsylvania has a very healthy population of black bears.”
Although spotting a bear in a suburban backyard maybe unusual, bears leaving their natural habit during drought conditions are not. According to Blair County WCO Steve Hanczar, during this extremely dry period, more wildlife, including bear and deer, are being seen in unusual places within the daylight hours.
“Wildlife are now seeking water sources wherever they can find them, from crop fields, waterways, streams, back yard water features and bird baths,” Hanczar said. “Just like human beings, wildlife are dependant on food, water and shelter for survival.”
“Do Not Feed The Bears!” is far more than a cartoon reference and Lycoming County WCO Harold Cole, who has received a multitude of reports about people feeding bears, explains why.
“The bears had been habituated so much that anyone could hand feed them! I was able to speak to two teenage girls that had hand fed a 225-pound bear. I heard reports that some people were lying down on the ground and putting food on their chest and letting a 400-pound bear eat the food off of their chest. Please think about what can happen; these animals are WILD. It will only take one of these bears not to like something and one swipe and someone is definitely going to the emergency room. Please really think about what you are doing or letting your kids do when bears are fed. By feeding bears, or any wildlife, they lose their fear of humans and see people as a food source. This puts other people and bears in harms way. Just think what can happen when an 8 year old is out riding his or her bike and a bear sees them and walks up to them to get some food, because that is what the bear was trained to do. At the very least, the child is going wreck the bike, if not worse. Bears are wild animals and are cool to see, but they need to be seen from a distance and not fed by piles of food or by hand, they need to look for wild foods. Protect yourself, your family, friends, other people and the bears too, don’t feed wildlife (bears)!”
What to do if you see or encounter a bear on your property, Black Bear safety basics:
- Never approach the bear to get a better look.
- Do not attempt to feed a bear.
- Anticipate and avoid encounters.
- When outdoors, supervise children and never leave pets unattended.
- Stay calm often the bear is simply passing through.
- Do not run away, walk towards a building or vehicle and get inside.
- If you have children and pets bring them inside.
- Once indoors observe the bear. Did it move on or did it stay on your property? If the bear stayed, what was it doing or eating?
- Encourage the bear to leave. Bang pots and pans, or blow an air horn or whistle. The more stressful a bear’s encounter with you, the less likely it is to come back.
- If the bear got food (like garbage or bird food), or if the bear tried to get food, you will need to remove or control the item that attracted the bear.
- Once the bear leaves, remove the attractant and assess your property for other possible attractants like garbage; dirty barbecue; bird or pet food or fruit or berries from your trees or bushes.
- It is possible for a bear to return even though you removed the attractant. Bears do return to places where they have found food. Once the bear does not get food, it will move on.
To learn more about your safety and that of wildlife, please visit the Pennsylvania Game Commission website.
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