Michael A. Sawyers
MOUNT NEBO — Although Garrett and Allegany counties have high bear densities, attacks upon humans are less likely to happen in the East than in western states, according to Harry Spiker, black bear project leader for the Maryland Wildlife & Heritage Service.
There has never been a confirmed bear attack on a human in the state.
Spiker said his theory has two prongs.
“In the West, some black bears live among grizzlies and have to be more aggressive to survive,” he said.
“Also, there is less wild food in the West so western bears become more territorial and defensive about food sources.”
With ample natural food and relatively mild winters compared to the West, Maryland’s bears appear to not only survive, but thrive, without undue conflict.
“For example,” Spiker said, “bears are known for infanticide, the male killing cubs in order to make the sow breed again. We see no evidence of that in Maryland.”
Spiker said territorial behavior between females is less noticeable with Maryland bears. The sows’ territories overlap without a great deal of fighting among them, he said.
If a bear attack on a human takes place in Maryland, it will be because of certain reasons, according to Spiker.
“Don’t run from a bear,” Spiker said. “If you run, they run (at you).”
“Don’t feed bears,” the biologist said. Fed bears lose fear of people and can become demanding and aggressive toward people if the food source is removed or there appears to be competition for it.
“Also, there is the situation that happens in a flash,” Spiker said. “A person steps through the door onto a porch to let the dog out and there is a bear there. Wrong place, wrong time.”
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