Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Bears Sighted in Easton's Downtown Again

By Christina Georgiou

Photo courtesy of the Pennsylvania Game Commission.
 It is a year ago almost to the day that a young black bear was shot and killed in Downtown Easton, but unlikely as bears invading the urban area seem, three more bear sightings were reported in the exact same area again this past weekend, says Easton Police Chief Carl Scalzo.
Authorities think there are two young black bears that were reported in three incidents, all which took place in the vicinity of the Easton Public Library, near North Fifth and Church streets.

Scalzo said this time the Pennsylvania Game Commission has been more responsive, and game wardens have set up a bear trap in the area. But so far, the trap has come up empty.

If a bear is caught, it will be sedated and transported far from the city, to a rural area with suitable habitat, where it will be released, Scalzo said. He added that the bear or bears seen in the city seem to be very young, which means they are not particularly dangerous to humans, despite their size.

"They're just trying to find a new home," he said, noting that young bears get kicked out of their original dens by their mothers as part of the weaning process when they reach a certain age. The bear or bears sighted in Easton were very likely only about a year old, fending for themselves for the first time, Scalzo said.

Local officials don't know exactly why young bears have ended up in the city two years in a row or where exactly they're coming from, but the proximity of both the Bushkill Creek and the Delaware River to the area where they've been sighted, along with the semi-wooded and rugged terrain of Mount Jefferson, the rock outcropping behind the library, probably has something to do with it.

A young black bear is released from a trap by a state game
warden in a more suitable habitat.
Photo courtesy of the Pennsylvania Game Commission.

"Hopefully, they'll just do their thing, and move along," Scalzo said.

What to Do If You See a Bear

The Pennsylvania Game Commission has specific recommendations of what to do if you see a bear. Generally they're found in much more rural areas than urban Easton, but much of the advice still applies.

Get Back. If you have surprised a bear, slowly back away while quietly talking. Face the bear, but avoid direct eye contact. Do not turn and run; rapid movement may be perceived as danger to a bear that is already feeling threatened. Avoid blocking the bear's only escape route and try to move away from any cubs you see or hear. Do not attempt to climb a tree. A female bear can falsely interpret this as an attempt to get at her cubs, even though the cubs may be in a different tree.

Pay Attention. If a bear is displaying signs of nervousness or discomfort with your presence, such as pacing, swinging its head, or popping its jaws, leave the area. Some bears may bluff charge to within a few feet. If this occurs, stand your ground, wave your arms wildly, and shout at the bear. Turning and running could elicit a chase and you cannot outrun a bear. Bears that appear to be stalking should be confronted and made aware of your willingness to defend by waving your arms and yelling while you continue to back away.

Fight Back. In the unlikely event that a bear attacks, fight back as you continue to leave the area. Bears have been driven away with rocks, sticks, binoculars, car keys, or even bare hands.

Keep your distance. If a bear shows up in your yard, stay calm. From a safe distance, shout at it like you would to chase an unwanted dog. Slowly retreat and then call the nearest Game Commission regional office (the number is listed below) or local police department for assistance if the bear won't leave. Children should understand not to run, approach or hide from a bear that wanders into the yard, but, instead, to walk slowly back to the house.

Check please! If your dog is barking, or cat is clawing at the door to get in, try to determine what has alarmed your pet. But do it cautiously, using outside lights to full advantage and from a safe position, such as a porch or an upstairs window. All unrecognizable outside noises and disturbances should be checked, but don't do it on foot with a flashlight. Black bears blend in too well with nighttime surroundings providing the chance for a close encounter. If bears have been sighted near your home, it is a good practice to turn on a light and check the backyard before taking pets out at night.

Keep it clean. Don't place garbage outside until pick-up day; don't throw table scraps out back for animals to eat; don't add fruit or vegetable wastes to your compost pile; and clean your barbecue grill regularly. If you feed pets outdoors, consider placing food dishes inside overnight.

While in rural areas, bear sightings are not necessarily a reason to call state game officials, in urban areas like Easton, local officials say it's a very good idea, since they don't belong here.

If you sight a bear locally in the urban Easton area, please call the Pennsylvania Northeast Regional Office at 610-926-3136 or the Easton police. In the event of an emergency, call 911. If the situation is not urgent, the non-emergency number is 610-759-2200.

No comments:

Post a Comment