Nuisance bear turns into educational tool

Game officers make stop at Penn?Cambria Middle School

State game wardens Seth Mesoras and Shawn Harshaw display a tranquilized bear to a group of students Friday in an open area behind Penn Cambria Middle School in Gallitzin. Mirror photo by Sean Sauro

GALLITZIN — Parked in a grassy area behind Penn Cambria Middle School on Friday, a black truck had towed in a large, green tube.

And inside, something was moving.

School officials had invited state game wardens to the school to show off a bear that was being a nuisance in Antis Township, Blair County, Game Warden Dan Yahner said.

Yahner said game officials like to show captured bears to community members throughout the year, using them as teaching tools.

“We try to whenever we get a bear and conditions are right,” he said.

Middle School Principal Dane Harrold said this was the second time that a bear was showcased to students.

On Friday morning, a team of three game wardens worked to tranquilize the animal before inviting a group of several dozen students to interact with it.

First, Yahner spoke to the students, providing information about bear behavior.

An estimated 20,000 black bears live in Pennsylvania, and, in Cambria County, the population is on the rise, Game Warden Seth Mesoras said.

That is partly due to poor weather last hunting season, which hindered many hunters’ ability to kill a bear, Mesoras said.

During the presentation, game wardens spoke about bear biology and mating seasons, and they gave safety information, as well. The latter is especially important as bear populations grow and interaction between humans and the animals become more common, Yahner said.

“They often relate it back to their parents,” Yahner said of students sharing information.

Yahner also offered instructions to the children on Friday soon before the bear was removed from the green tube.

“I really need you to be quiet,” he said. “The quieter you are, the quicker the bear will become tranquilized.”

The small, unconscious bear was then removed from the tube and placed in front of the group.

And the wardens continued their educational program, even letting one student clip an identification tag into the bear’s ear.

The bear was small, weighing only about 125 pounds, the wardens said.

It was caught Thursday, and they said it would later be released in a remote location within nearby state gamelands.

Mirror Staff Writer Sean Sauro is at 946-7535.