Bear sightings are on the rise in Warren County

A mother bear and two cubs. (Photo by Carl Leichtenberger)

The bears are back.

There have been some sightings of Pennsylvania black bears, some trail cam action, and some damage to bird feeders and garbage in North Warren this week.

That’s not too surprising, according to the Pennsylvania Game Commission.

“The cubs are born in late February, early March,” Wildlife Conservation Officer Dave Donachy said. “We don’t see a lot of them until now when the young bears are up and around and able to follow their mothers.”

Now is the time for adult bears to replenish after a long winter.

“They’ve lost a lot of weight during that denning,” Donachy said. “They’re looking for the high protein.”

The easiest prey is the kind that doesn’t run away and is just sitting out in the open. Bird feeders and garbage cans are regular targets.

So, bears are roaming yards.

“They don’t have to work for bird feeders too much,” Donachy said. “That’s easy access.”

People who find damaged feeders or strewn garbage on their property should make changes. “If the food isn’t there, the bear won’t be there,” he said.

That might mean not feeding birds for a little while.

“Most of our summer birds are insect eaters,” Donachy said. “I don’t know that they really depend on us. Bird feeding is not something that we have to do.”

“Any time you put food out for wildlife, it’s hard to be specific to which species you’re attracting,” he said. “You’re also luring bears and raccoons, rats and mice.”

“As an agency, our first response is, eliminate the food sources, as practical as that may be,” he said. “At the point it causes a problem, a real problem or a perceived problem, that’s when you have to reevaluate the value.”

Donachy often hears, “I see a bear in my back yard, what should I do?”

“Leave it alone,” he said. “It will move on.”

Pennsylvania black bears are accustomed to humans. They are aware and have escape routes available when they know people are nearby. They even get used to the garbage collection schedules in their neighborhoods.

Children are not in any particular danger, Donachy said.

“Kids make a lot of noise,” he said. “They’re not going to surprise a bear. The bear is aware of them and is going to find an escape route.”

Adults trying to get close with cell phone cameras, or worse, handfuls of food, are a much greater danger — to themselves and to the bear. Intentionally feeding bears is against the law.

A black bear is a large and powerful animal that can be dangerous when surprised or cornered.

“The first thing you want to do is stay off the Facebook,” Donachy said. “That’s going to draw more people and cause more stress on that bear and increase the risk of a problem.”

“The only time the threat level goes up, is if we draw a crowd,” he said. “The greatest likelihood of an attack is surprising or cornering a bear and not giving it an escape. We want to give them their space. No one should ever crowd a bear.”

Both the bears and the humans are better off if the bears move on to less populated areas.

The Game Commission will step in when bears become problems, but only after steps are taken by the people with the complaints.

“Food elimination is number one,” Donachy said. “They’re hungry enough to be persistent. Eliminate the food source as much as practical.”

Removing feeders and keeping garbage better protected are two fairly simple steps.

The Game Commission website includes a link to living with Pennsylvania black bears by navigating through the wildlife and wildlife species tabs.