Stay calm, and smart, when it’s a bear


A glimpse of a back bear in the woods is always an exciting time. My hunting buddy and I spotted one this past week while out spotting for deer. When you spot that black patch in the woods, there is no mistaking what it is. A bear’s coat is a glossy black that stands out from the black of a stump .

Of course, the sight of a bear near civilization sparks a discussion about what it is doing out where it is so visible when this creature is unusually careful to always be hidden. Well, there’s a couple reasons.

First, is food. Any food left carelessly around a farmhouse or rural residence like next morning’s garbage, a birdfeeder, Fido’s food dish, a still-fragrant greasy grill and on and on will draw bears. And as long as you leave such things out there you can expect visits from bears.

But a more dominant compulsion for bears to be covering a lot of territory in the summer is that July and August are the Black Bear’s breeding season. Male bears are patrolling their territories, which can be a 40 square mile piece of real estate, which they can easily cover in one day looking for a female that has come into estrus.

Females, however, only come into season for breeding every two years. This is a real nuisance to a male bear; a big male will kill a female’s cubs to bring their mother into cooperation with his plans.

Or if her cubs are in their second year, they have a great shock in store. Their up-to-this-time caring and careful mother turns into a growling ogre. She chases those cubs away fro her and makes it clear to them that they are to get going to find their own territories. She is then free to breed. This is just a natural cycle in bear upbringing.

These bewildered, confused young bears begin wandering around, trying to find someplace to settle in. Often they wander right into town, running around Main street in their fear and confusion. These are the ones that make the news every year when they stroll into plain sight at a carnival or picnic and everyone panics at the sight of a bear. People start yelling and running around in panic, searching for their camera or trying to get their cell phone set up to take a picture.

Some folks act very stupidly, dangerously. Shoving ice cream cones or cookies into their children’s hands and urging them to try to feed them to the bear so they can get a photo.

Quite often such a confused bear runs up a telephone pole or a tree in someone’s yard and the Game Commission is called and all they can do is to tranquilize the beast and transport it to another location.

So what do you do when you see a bear in the woods? Just stop, stay quiet and don’t move and enjoy the sight. These are not grizzly bears that will attack for any reason. Black bears are not aggressive unless provoked and a crowd running around him, chasing him or trying to feed him goodies which don’t come fast enough to suit it, will provoke it. Let it alone and it will just be on its way.

If you happen to startle one, as in coming face to face with it on the other side of the huckleberry bush you are picking berries from, just stay quiet, back away slowly.

Bears are very afraid of human beings. They have a spectacular sense of scent and if they smell you, they will high-tail it out of the area.

One of the funniest events I ever experienced with black bears was the time many years ago, in northern Pennsylvania, I was driving somewhere and when I glanced into the parking area of a restaurant I was passing, I spotted a green Game Commission vehicle with a large barrel trap attached to the back. I made a U turn as soon as I could and went back. I knew what was going on and it sounded like a story to me.

I marched into the restaurant, approached the two Game Protectors, who, up to then, were having a peaceful lunch, introduced myself and asked if indeed they were transporting bears.

They were. One Game Warden was From Pike County and had his nuisance bear in his trap and was headed for Bedford County. The second Game Warden was from Bedford County, also had a bear and was headed for Pike County with it. They had communicated over their radios and had arranged the lunch meeting.

I always wondered why they didn’t just exchange bears right there in the parking lot and then each return back home. But they didn’t. So they each went to the other’s territory and released their nuisance bear. I called it playing “Musical Bears.”

Don’t forget

If you forgot or just neglected to send in your antlerless license application, you still have time if you get on it now!

Applications are being accepted Monday morning.