Bears seeking new homes cross paths with people
HAZLETON (AP) – Now is the time of year when black bears turn up in areas where they’re not normally seen.
An official with the state Game Commission said they’re likely looking for a new place to live – a normal part of a male bear’s life cycle.
“It’s a good bet that that is what is happening,” said commission spokesman Travis Lau, after being asked about recent bear sightings in the area.
Residents should not roll out the welcome mats, Lau said. Instead, they should take measures to make their properties unattractive to the young bruins.
Lau explained that bears spotted in late April and May are likely leaving their dens in search of territories of their own.
He noted that bear cubs are typically born in January and February, and spend the following spring, summer and fall, learning survival skills from their mothers. They “den” with their mothers through the winter.
“During the springtime of the next year, the mother at some time will drive off those male cubs,” Lau said. “They will seek home ranges that are usually some distance away, sometimes 30 to 60 miles away. It ensures diversity in the gene pool.”
The bears might cross through communities as they search for new locales. They might wind up at shopping centers or in urban areas.
“It’s usually a brief span of time until the bear figures out, ‘This is no place for a bear,’ and they will move on,” he said.
In the Harrisburg area, Lau has heard about bears showing up on porches and decks. They’re often attracted to a gas grill that hasn’t been scrubbed clean, bird feeders or pet food left outside.
“They are looking for a quick, easy meal,” Lau said.
He advised residents to remove the attractants. With nothing to snack on, and no reliable food source, bears will likely continue on their way.
The Game Commission cautions against approaching bears. If one is near a house door or on a deck, however, residents – who are safe inside – can make loud noises to chase it away.
Although Lau believes most bears sighted now are dispersing bears, some bears can become a nuisance.
“These are bears that to some degree lose their fear of humans,” he said. They will stay in populated areas, and depend on food that is knowingly – or unknowingly – left for them by people.
Game Commission officers can trap and relocate nuisance bears.
Residents concerned about bears are free to call their local Game Commission office, which will dispatch officers as needed.
“Sometime when they show up the bear is gone,” Lau said. Other times, they’re able to track it as it searches for a new territory.