Black bear sighted in Woodbine

Even for homeowners accustomed to wildlife, bear causes double-take

June 04, 2000|By Jamie Smith Hopkins | Jamie Smith Hopkins,SUN STAFF

Woodbine residents are used to seeing wildlife in their quiet community, which is dotted with farms and forests.

But black bears - that's out of the ordinary.

At least two residents saw one racing through the neighborhood Thursday afternoon, crossing yards and roads as it headed toward Carroll County.

"When I saw the thing running through the field, I did a double-take," said MadgeJones, an eight-year resident of Woodbine who was driving home from a store about 2:45 p.m.

She stopped her car, watched the bear cross in front of her and grabbed her cellular phone to call Howard County police.

"I said, `This is not an emergency, but I'm standing here watching a bear playing in my neighbor's yard,'" Jones said.

"He didn't appear to be aggressive. ... He didn't appear to be noticing anything around him," she said. "He had something on his mind."

The bear ran to a neighboring yard, where Portia Hallowell was weeding her garden.

She said she saw quite a few black bears as a girl - her father worked for the National Park Service, and the family lived several years in the Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee - but "the last place I expected to see one was in my yard in western Howard County."

"It was within 50 feet when I noticed it," Hallowell said. "It was really amazing."

Howard County police contacted the state Department of Natural Resources about the matter, said Sgt. John Superson, a police spokesman.

"It's happened before," he said. "The black bears do come down from the north. We've had some sightings on Marriottsville Road before."

Susan O'Brien, a spokeswoman with the Natural Resources Department, said officials don't plan to trap and move the bear. It's the department's policy to do so only if the animal is injured or poses a threat to people.

"It's more biologically damaging to trap and move a bear than to let it move on its own," she said.

Black bears rarely become aggressive; instead, they tend to run from humans, O'Brien said. She advises people to calmly back away if they see a bear and to call the Natural Resources Department's nuisance wildlife hot line, 877-463-6497.

This isn't bear country, but sightings are more frequent in June and July, according to officials.

Ken D'Loughy, regional wildlife manager with the Natural Resources Department's Maryland Wildlife and Heritage division, said 2-year-old bears get driven off by their mothers this time of year and have to look for new territory.

They can travel as far as 25 miles a day.

"They tend to roam great distances," O'Brien said.

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