Michael A. Sawyers

Michael A. Sawyers - Outdoor Editor

OK. There are bears in Allegany County. They are not going away.

The reason I bring that up is because my phone and my e-mail and even my mailbox (yup, people still send regular mail, especially those who want to remain anonymous) have been busy because of folks seeing bears.

I suppose it is one thing to read about bears being in the area or to have an acquaintance tell you that he or see has seen a bear, but it must be something altogether different to actually spy one yourself.

The writers or the callers are telling me that there is a bear in their neighborhood or perhaps even in their backyard. The people are usually quite concerned. They are concerned about their own well-being and about the well-being of their children or grandchildren or their pets. For the most part, the callers/writers seem to be able to deal with property damage such as ripped screens or damaged bird feeders.

Bears are so common in the county (and in other nearby counties) that we stopped some time ago reporting sightings in our popular Bear Watch feature.

The calls I get come from all portions of the county, places such as Bel Air, Corriganville, the communities along Georges Creek, Westernport, Flintstone and even Kiefer. Bet a lot of you don’t know where Kiefer is. A neighbor in Rawlings told me Thursday that we have a bruin roaming our little neck of the county.

Anyway, if you call the Maryland Wildlife and Heritage Service to tell them you have a neighborhood bear, you will be instructed how to lessen the chance that a bear will come near your domicile. You will be told to remove bird feeders or to keep your garbage inside until pickup day. You will be told not to leave grilling equipment outside after you have enjoyed a burger or a dog or a steak. Things like that.

The wildlife people will not, and simply cannot, for the most part, come to every yard or street where a bear or its handiwork has been spotted.

If a bear gets a little more rambunctious, say it gets in a house or makes a serious attempt to get in one, the wildlife crew may choose to set a trap nearby. If a bear crunches a collie or chews a calico, it is likely to be trap time in a yard near you.

One caller who lives near Northeast School in the Valley Road area was genuinely concerned that a bear could decide to visit the playground there during a student hopscotch session.

I wrote a year ago this month that a 300-pound male bear was trapped one-half mile from the school that houses students up through grade five. The administrators at the school are well aware that bears are in that area. At that time, Principal Kerry Kelly indicated that the frequency of sightings had increased. Kelly had already made the decision to keep students off the ballfield behind the school and to allow them only on the blacktop and playground areas and have them very much supervised. At least on one occasion, Kelly sent a letter to all parents making them aware of the bears.

My best advice is to stay alert, and follow the guidelines set by the wildlife agency (www.dnr.state.md.

us).

Contact Michael A. Sawyers at msawyers@times-news.com.. The Outdoors page will return on May 25. Kiefer is the small community in Maryland not far from the bridge connecting to Paw Paw, W.Va.

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