Cumberland Times-News


July 2, 2011

Backyard bears relatively common

There is no doubt about it.

I have received more phone calls and emails this summer than at any previous time about bears.

Harry Spiker, bear biologist for the Maryland Wildlife & Heritage Service, said recently that Allegany County has the fastest growing bruin population in the state and that is certainly reflected in the number of contacts I am getting.

People are often excited when they call. A number of those calls have been from people who have been around for seven or eight decades and they report that the bear they just saw was their first.

It pains me to tell them that there are so many bear sightings that we don’t report them in Bear Watch, our regular feature about bears, both dead and alive. To make Bear Watch, the bruin has to eat your cocker spaniel or enter your kitchen seeking an apple pie or something like that. Of course, bears that get whacked and stacked on a Maryland highway make Bear Watch for sure.

If someone decides to pick up a cub and take it home, that gets even greater attention, say Page One. That also gets the attention of the Maryland Natural Resources Police and eventually a judge.

When I hear about a sighting in Allegany County, I pass it along to the state wildlife agency. Sightings of Yogi and Boo Boo or Smokey in Garrett County are so commonplace that they are no longer counted by the wildlife people.

In the photos or emails that I receive, it is often evident that the bear has come to that location because of a food source, especially birdseed.

A black bear will walk past a dead deer and a garbage can to reach birdseed. You will not get much sympathy from the wildlife staff if your French doors get broken by a bear who slipped trying to get to the birdseed you had hanging nearby.

Don’t get angry with me. I didn’t make the policy. I’m just telling you about it.

The carcass of the second gobbler I got this spring was in a garbage bag and the bag was in a garbage can behind our house in Rawlings. When I went to bed that night, I thought, “You know. I should probably bring that can into the garage.”

Too late. Overnight, a bear got the whole bag, stepped on and smashed the lid and moved off. I eventually found the bag and some feathers 100 yards into the woods, but what was left of the turkey was already inside a bear’s belly somewhere else.

Living with bears around is a challenge and, in my mind, a danger. Bears don’t know their own strength and are equipped to kill.

Here is a link to the DNR’s advice about living with bears:

It is, you know, illegal for you to feed bears in Maryland even if you are not hunting them. People have been convicted of that violation.

I get the feeling that we are going to see and hear a lot more about bears in Allegany County this summer. I have contended for years that one will show up on the bricks of Cumberland’s Town Centre on a Thursday morning when the Farmers’ Market is in progress... especially when corn on the cob is available.

I hope we have a photographer on duty when that happens.

Contact Outdoor Editor Mike Sawyers at

Text Only
  • Don’t do it. Don’t do it

    Temperatures have been moderate recently but are projected to rise to the upper 80s and low 90s later this week, so we want to remind you: Never leave children unattended in a vehicle.

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • He means well, and this time they spared his life

    Our pal Phil is the only re-enactor certified in writing by both the Lee and Custis families to portray Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee (whose wife was Mary Anna Custis Lee). When he’s in uniform, he generally stops at the bottom of the path that leads to the summit of Little Round Top, salutes Capt. Gary and First Sgt. Goldy and asks permission to join us. (Get it? Generally ... General Lee?) We always return his salute and grant him permission, in part because he’s our friend and also because the real Lee never got to see what it really looks like from up there. (Get it? Grant ... Grant? U.S. Grant? Real Lee ... really? OK. I hear you. That’s enough. Seriouslee.) Phil gets a kick out of being able to sneak up on us while we’re distracted by tourists.

    July 20, 2014

  • It’s hotter here than in D.C. or Baltimore

    At this time of the year, the weather is a frequent subject of conversation, particularly the temperatures. We are now in the “Dog Days,” usually the hottest days of the year. The term comes from our sun appearing to be near the “Dog Star” (Sirius) and the “Little Dog Star” (Procyon). In reality, the sun is now about 94.5 million miles away while Sirius is 8.6 light years away with Procyon at 11 light years distance. Sunlight takes only 507 seconds to reach us, while the two dog stars’ light takes about a decade to travel to our eyes. So our sun is in the same direction (but not distance) as these two bright winter evening stars.

    July 20, 2014

  • Mike Sawyers and his father, Frank Sale of quart-sized Mason jars lagging, merchants claim

    The opening day of Maryland’s squirrel hunting season is Sept. 6 and I am guessing you will be able to drive a lot of miles on the Green Ridge State Forest and see very few vehicles belonging to hunters of the bushytail. It wasn’t always that way. In the early 1960s, when I was a high school student in Cumberland, there was no Interstate 68. What existed was U.S. Route 40 and in the last couple of hours before daylight on the opening day of squirrel season there was an almost unbroken line of tail lights and brake lights between Cumberland and Polish Mountain.

    July 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • Hugo Perez Columnist, son are range finders, but where are .22 shells?

    We feel pretty lucky on this side of the Potomac to have a nice shooting range to utilize for free and within decent driving distance.

    July 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • Opposition and inclusion understood

    Those of you who have been here before know how I feel about the late great Len Bias, who I will remember foremost as Leonard Bias, the polite, spindly Bambi-eyed kid from Hyattsville’s Northwestern High School, who could throw a dunk through the floor, yet had the most beautiful jump shot I have ever seen.

    July 17, 2014

  • Stopgap

    Kicking the can down the road was one of the things American kids did to pass the time in the old days, particularly if they lived in rural areas where there was little traffic to contend with.

    July 16, 2014

  • Further proof you should never bet on baseball

    Had you known in March that ...

    July 16, 2014

  • Build it now Build it now

    Anticipated savings from demolition work that will provide ground for a new Allegany High School on Haystack Mountain may allow the addition of an auditorium at the school.

    July 14, 2014 1 Photo

  • Fronts, highs, lows determine weather

    Weather news on television and internet focus on violent weather, extreme temperatures and flooding.

    July 13, 2014