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The Neighborhood Bear is Back Smarter than Ever

Springtime brings the return of the Pennsylvania black bear to many neighborhoods across the West Branch Valley. They are looking for a quick and easy meal, whether it be from a bird feeder, garbage can, picnic basket, or whatever they find appetizing that day.

This was the case in my neighborhood last week, as there were trash cans overturned in the street and bird feeders torn down. Well, it didn’t take one long to show up at my house in what has become a pretty normal routine. As I slept in my chair after falling asleep in front of the TV, I heard my Hamm’s Disposal toter loudly crash on my driveway. This was followed by my 4-legged son Finn awakening, loudly barking, and running out the doggy door. It was a warm evening, and I had left the back door open. Finn knew the noise like I did and leapt into duty to chase that black bear out of the yard. My 4-legged son is a yellow lab, by the way, in case you didn’t know.

I thought about getting out of my recliner to go see the bear but figured by the time I did so, Finn would have the situation under control, and the bear would be gone. The garbage toter the bear tips over is only a 2-car garage away from my back door.

This is where I need to tell you that Kriger Fence had installed an electric Dogwatch system around my yard a few years back. I didn’t need it for my family’s first 4-legged son. Buddy, the burger dog, would stay close to home, never leaving, although I should mention he treed a bear right off the corner of our front porch. As all good dogs do, Buddy went to heaven, and then Finn joined our family. He wouldn’t stay close to home, Finn would travel down to Schick Elementary School when he heard the kids. Everybody in our neighborhood and beyond got used to me pulling up, yelling Finn’s name, then him running to the truck and jumping in. I should again thank everybody that would bring Finn home, especially the neighborhood kids. Now you know why I had to cave in and get that electric fence from Kriger; my dog training skills were defeated by Finn. Thank you to Kriger’s and the great job they did in corralling my buddy.

So, what does an electric fence have to do with that bear and him making a meal out of Easter leftovers? After Buddy passed, my wife first added Leia, the cat, to our family. Then came Finn, followed by my granddog, Buck, who is often there for doggy daycare. The three get along like brothers and sister. It didn’t take Leia long to figure out she could just go to the other side of the electric fence and get away from Buck. Finn never really bothers her very much. Even though she can put both dogs in their place, she’ll cross the magical line, find a nice spot to lay down, and look back as if to give them the middle claw.

This is where the bear comes back into the story. The next morning when I awoke, I went outside to pick up the toter and clean up any garbage dispersed by the bear. I found this bear had learned the same trick as Leia; call it bear evolution, if you will. On the other side of the electric fence, looking back into my yard, you could clearly see where the bear laid down having his nighttime snack while clearly out of the reach of Finn. I’m sure he is not the only bear that knows this trick.

This is where I must get a little more serious; we all need to be extra careful around not just bears but all wild creatures. You never know what will trigger aggression. We all know when a mother has cubs, she is protective of her young; however, there are also times when a person can come between the bear and a food source, or the bear might be sick or have been hit by a car. Who knows, maybe the bear is just having a bad day.

Man’s interaction with bears locally is usually over a food source. As I mentioned earlier, bears learn where there is easy food to be had. Natural sources around your home or neighborhood can also come into factor, like acorns or nutproducing trees, fruit trees, berry bushes, farm crops, or the family garden. I almost forgot water sources, especially when it’s dry.

If you fear and would like to keep the bears out of your space, eliminate as many food sources as possible. As the saying goes, don’t feed the bears. In my case, I should keep my garbage toter in the garage and take it down the morning of pick up. They would learn it’s not there the same way they learned there’s a bear buffet waiting for them at that spot. However, with all the other sources of food around my house, it would be hard to get rid of them.

If a bear outstays his welcome and becomes a nuisance, contact your local PA Game Commission office.

Let’s all be safe out there and enjoy the amazing wildlife we share planet Earth with.

God Bless America.

Jim Webb