Bill Williams keeps a pamphlet outlining tips on how to handle a bear encounter within reach.
The information and education supervisor with the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s Northeast Region doesn’t need the pamphlet for himself. He keeps it handy to share with residents who routinely call the regional office with bear complaints, sightings and questions.
“I don’t know if the calls have increased over the last couple of years, but they’ve become a fairly common occurrence,” Williams said.
Many of the calls originate from residential areas in the Poconos, Mountain Top, Nanticoke and Back Mountain, but some reports of bear sightings are phoned in from urban areas as well, including a recent report of a bruin in Kingston. Williams said Swoyersville, Forty Fort and West Wyoming also have occasional bear sightings.
So why are bears willing to leave their traditional habit and pay a visit to a neighborhood or city street?
Williams said there is usually a similar reason in every instance.
“Sometimes, if it’s just a sighting, it could be a bear passing through. But many times it’s because of a food source,” he said. “Bird feeders, trash cans, pet food. It can all attract bears.”
While the cause may not change, the way each call is handled can vary.
A bear frequenting a residential area because of a food source is an easy problem to fix, Williams said. Remove the food source and the bear won’t have a reason to come back, he said.
Sometimes, people want more action to be taken.
“Occasionally, there’s an expectation that if someone sees a bear in their yard, they want it gone,” Williams said. “We’re not going to remove a bear just because it’s been seen in a yard or it finds a birdfeeder or trash can. Removing the food source is the first step.”
If a live trap is necessary to capture and remove the bear, Williams said such a step often isn’t a permanent fix. If the food source remains after the bear has been removed, another bruin will move in. It’s also not uncommon for a bear that has been relocated to eventually return to the area, Williams added.
Calls regarding bears deep in an urban area are a bit different than those spotted in a backyard. Usually, instances of a bear in town generate calls from police and a crowd of onlookers. And they usually end with a bear in a tree.
“More people will then come out to see it and that compounds the problem,” Williams said. “The bear won’t come down until it feels safe, and that won’t happen until the people leave.”
A couple times each year, the PGC is faced with the last resort of anesthetizing and removing a bear in a tree, a task Williams said can be risky in avoiding injury to the bruin.
In most cases, he said, local police and PGC officers will clear the area and wait until the bear feels secure enough to climb down and wander away.
While seeing a bear in a residential or urban area can be a thrill, Williams said it’s usually not a dangerous proposition. Still, he advised residents to make their presence known if a bear is nearby and it will usually back away out of the area.
“If it’s the first bear someone ever saw, it can be a surprise,” he said. “A lot of people don’t realize that bears can be living in such close proximity.”
Reach Tom Venesky at 570-991-6395 or on Twitter @TLTomVeneskycomments powered by Disqus