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Just the ‘bear’ facts

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Now that summer is here and the kids are out of school, there are a lot of folks up in our region who are enjoying the mountains, lakes, rivers and all things that come with it. We share nature’s amenities with a very diverse variety of wildlife. Some of this wildlife can interfere with our activities and even pose potential risk to us if not respected.

Bears are one of the animals that make their presence known with the coming of spring. Garbage cans are tipped over, or maybe hen houses are broken into, or bee hives are destroyed by a marauding bear. People get worried that they will have a run-in with a bear and forgo that forest walk that was planned.

Most of the problems with bears are associated with food sources, sources that we provide. Bears forage and find these easy-to-get food sources, and therein lies the problem. The best way to minimize bear problems is to make it harder for bears to get at human-generated food sources. Don’t feed bears as this just conditions them to come to your or your neighbor’s house for food. If you put out the trash for pickup, wait until the morning of pickup to put it out, and if the cans are kept in the garage, keep the garage door closed when not in use.

Pennsylvania Game Commission (PGC) Wildlife Conservation Officer Bob Johnson advises that there are steps landowners can take to prevent bear damage. Bee hives and poultry enclosures should have electric fencing installed to discourage bears. Chain link fencing is ineffective; bears can climb right over the fence, and a larger bear can tear down sections of fence. Use bear-proof dumpsters, and don’t leave garbage within easy reach of bears. Officer Johnson also advises that the PGC cannot come out and relocate bears on every instance. A bear that happens to be walking in your backyard, or making a mess of your neighbor’s yard because they left the garbage cans out two days early, is just living by its normal instincts and would not warrant trapping and relocation.

I recently spent several days with Officer Johnson trapping nuisance bears and research bears in several locations in Pike County, and some of these bears are described in the captions of the photos in this column.

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