Bear makes a rare county appearance

Young male creates a stir, little trouble, in Shady Side

August 10, 2008|By Karen Shih | Karen Shih,Sun Reporter

Teresa Oleszewski was driving to work one morning early last week when, she says, she saw a small creature amble onto the road about a block from her house in Shady Side.

"We have deer and foxes and opossums and all other creatures," she said of the woods near her home. But she knew she was seeing something out of the ordinary.

"It was just a little black bear," she said. It was, she added, about the size of a big dog.

Hers was just one of many sightings of the young bear last week in southern Anne Arundel County, where it apparently arrived after making its way north from St. Mary's and Calvert counties in the past two weeks, state Department of Natural Resources officials said. It was first spotted around Edgewater on Tuesday, said Paul Peditto, director of Natural Resources' Wildlife and Heritage Service, which has been monitoring the bear through calls from residents.

"When they get to be a year and a half old, the young males and females are essentially kicked out of that family, and the males will continue to travel until they reach an area where there are no other bears," he said. They believe the bear is a male about that age.

While it has been about five years since a black bear has been spotted in the county, it's not unusual to find a young bear out of its natural habitat in other parts of the state. Bears, which can cover 20 miles to 30 miles a day, are spotted regularly in Montgomery, Baltimore and Harford counties during this time of year, Peditto said.

But despite how close it has gotten to homes, he emphasized that the bear, which is estimated to weigh about 120 pounds, should not be a threat to humans.

"It's essentially moving like a bear, trying to get away from people," he said. "What we're really relying on is that people will not do behaviors that will attract the bear," such as putting out food.

The DNR advises people to keep their trash secured in a garage and to keep bird feeders and grills out of reach. Bears are opportunistic, and while their normal diet consists of berries, nuts and small rodents, reptiles and amphibians, they will eat just about anything if it is in easy reach.

"The only time we have a conflict with people and bears is when the bear is afforded the opportunity to become complacent," Peditto said.

If a person is caught near a bear in an open area, however, the best thing to do is not to run but to stand up tall, clap your hands and make a lot of noise, he said. Do not retreat up a tree, because bears are excellent climbers.

"Essentially you're dealing with an overgrown raccoon," he said. "The bear will leave in almost every case before you do anything. When it sees you or smells you, it will try to get away from you."

In Shady Side, the bear had become a bit of a celebrity, with e-mails going back and forth among community members, who reported seeing it eating apples out of a tree and wandering close to a pier.

Nobody seemed too scared.

Oleszewski's husband, Wes, said, "It's not like we're going to keep the kids indoors forever. We'll keep our eye out."

The bear is likely to wander along river corridors for a couple of weeks until it finds a more suitable habitat, probably far away. There is little chance of it settling in Anne Arundel County because there are too many people, Peditto said.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.