Return of the Bear

July 06, 1992

Not all valued wildlife species face extinction as mankind relentlessly fouls the air, poisons the water and fells the forest. Deer are making a comeback, bearing ticks which spread

disease to humans, evening the score. Beavers are messing up countless streams and ponds. And now bears -- native black bear -- are reinvading Carroll and Baltimore counties. These species, like the raccoon before them, are adapting to human habitat and finding their niche, however disturbing to humans professing a love of nature from afar.

Whatever else may be said about Interstate 695, the Beltway has its uses, foremost of which is keeping bears out of Baltimore City. What stockades did for frontier settlements in the 18th Century, this impenetrable barrier does now. It is no small accomplishment. With all our other urban problems, the prospect of a bear ambling through Leakin Park or rummaging for berries in West Baltimore yards would be too much.

Fortunately, the Beltway absolutely stopped the two-year-old black bear seen roaming through Carroll County into Baltimore County. He was trapped between Interstate 70 and the Beltway, when caught and tranquilized last week. One theory is that he was headed for Woodlawn to see about a Social Security claim, but we'll never know.

One cannot be sure where this bear came from, but very likely the forests of southern Pennsylvania and then, perhaps, the Catoctin ridge. Snooping about Camp David, no doubt. Those Pennsylvania bears ought to stick to their own kind and go back to Pennsylvania. We have enough on our hands in Central Maryland without them.

But it would be a fine thing if these mammals of the Eastern forests would spread their knowledge of survival and replenishment to the fin and invertebrate species of the Chesapeake Bay. Bears we can do without, but a resurgent population of crabs, shad and oysters back into the despoiled human habitat would be a fine thing. If only they knew what the bear and deer know.

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