Although the 2011 Bear Hunt netted 3968 bears statewide, there are still approximately 15,000 to 16,000 black bears currently living in the state of Pennsylvania according to Bill Williams, I & E Supervisor at the Dallas Office of the Pennsylvania Game Commission.
As more and more neighborhoods are developed in the country, it is important to know how to deal with the bears who are already living in the general area. Pennsylvania Game Commission’s information handout entitled Living with Pennsylvania Black Bears is a valuable source of information.
One vital piece of advice is to eliminate all sources of food that will attract the bears. Another is to know how to deal with an unexpected encounter with a black bear.
Black bears will eat almost anything whether it is human food, garbage, bird seed, pet food or livestock fodder. Store these items in an enclosed building. Put the trash out the morning of collection and scrub out the garbage cans on a regular basis. Clean grills after every use and dispose of the grill grease elsewhere. Keep gardens and the area under fruit trees picked up.
Bears are especially attracted to beehives, birdfeeders, corn fields, and compost piles where they will root around for tasty morsels. They also hunt fawns and elk calves and occasionally adult deer and even cubs. Bears usually avoid penned or chained dogs but may attack dogs that approach them.
Electric fences are the best way to protect beehives. If bears are causing devastation to corn fields, it is best to call the Game Commission for assistance.
If you ever encounter a black bear in person the Pennsylvania Game Commission offers the following advice:
- Stay calm – If the bear hasn’t seen you, leave the area.
- Get back – If you are facing the bear, back away slowly but avoid eye contact which a bear may perceive as a threat. Be aware of the presence of cubs and avoid them.
- Don’t climb or run – Never climb a tree to escape as female bears chase their cubs up trees to escape danger. Running may make a bear give chase.
- Pay attention – Once a bear identifies you it will usually leave. If the bear stays, it may pop its jaws as a warning sign. Back away and slowly leave the area. If the bear attempts to charge you, shout and wave your arms at the bear.
- Fight back – Do not play dead. This strategy doesn’t work with black bears.
Pennsylvania black bears range in weight from 200 to 800 pounds and measure from five to seven feet standing upright. They climb trees and swim well and can run up to 35 mph. They may also live up to 25 years in the wild. Bears mate from early June to mid-July and it is at this time that males are very aggressive towards other males.
As the Pennsylvania Game Commission advises us, black bears shouldn’t be feared or dismissed as harmless. They just need to be respected. For more information on Pennsylvania’s black bears contact the Northeast Region Office at (570) 675-1143 or on the web at: http://www.pgc.state.pa.us
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