Sightings

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neither should garbage cans that can be easily opened. Those should be kept inside, in an area like a shed or a garage, until trash day. Pet food should not be sitting outside either, as bears will want to eat it.

If garbage must be kept outside, pouring ammonia on and around bags “works as a great deterrent for bears,” Rutkowski continued. Bears are most active at dusk and dawn and they eat almost anything, from berries, corn, acorns, beechnuts and grass, to table scraps, honey and insects. During late summer and fall, black bears fatten up for winter hibernation and, at this time, they may actively feed for up to 20 hours a day, ingesting up to 20,000 calories.

“If you encounter a bear, you don’t want to run, they are a predatory animal,” Rutkowski noted. If a person a runs, a bear will chase them, he said, not necessarily in an aggressive manner, but out of curiosity. Faster than a human, the bear will catch the person and then serious injuries could follow. While black bears appear heavy, they are surprisingly agile and can run up to 35 miles per hour.

Rather than run, if a person encounters a bear, he should shout, making as much noise as possible, and wave his arms in the air, Rutkowski went on. Then the person should retreat, by walking slowly backwards.

Unless a bear is a female protecting its cubs, it should not be aggressive. Pets, like dogs, should be kept tethered or in a fenced-in area but are usually not at risk in a bear-populated area.

“A bear is not going to seek out a dog,” Rutkowski said. “Bears are pretty lazy. They generally don’t stalk and hunt down their food. A barking dog usually deters a bear, but, if the dog goes after the bear, it’s going to get injured.”

With 20,000 black bears in Pennsylvania, the Game Commission isn’t interested in homeowners reporting a residential bear sighting, the officer added, unless home or personal damage occurs.

If a bear visits a home where it found trash or a birdfeeder, it generally will return over the next week, to see if more food has been placed out. Bears are trapped and relocated by the Game Commission only after a food source has been taken away for a significant period of time and the bear still returns to the property and acts as a nuisance.

People can learn to live in a bear-populated area, Rutkowski concluded, by following one simple rule: “Just don’t put food outside.”