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

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