May 27 2010
Let me start by saying that in 17 years of hiking alone I have only once seen a bear in the wild.
Granted, I have not been looking for them, but now it seems that I stand a better chance of seeing a black bear in my own city neighborhood than out in the woods.
Bears have been big news in Pittsburgh for the past two weeks. At this time of year teenage bears leave home for the first time (mama bear pushes them out so she can start her next family). They’re on the move, have no idea where to go, and are looking for a place to call home.
What’s unusual is that two or more of them are roaming the city and suburbs of Pittsburgh. Bears have been seen in Tarentum, Natrona Heights, Brentwood, Baldwin, Overbrook and Frick Park. They’ve been seen so frequently that the Game Commission has set traps for them and my friend, Wildlife Conservation Officer Beth Fife, showed how the traps work on KDKA. (Beth is also the one who bands the peregrine falcon chicks. She’s a busy lady!)
But the big news for me occurred in the early hours of Wednesday morning — 3:30am — when my neighbors called the cops on a bear at Magee Field.
I know what that bear was up to.
I’m a neighborhood cleanup volunteer for Magee Field and I can tell you it’s a black bear’s dream. There’s a lot of garbage in open barrels and no one gets in your way. Don’t show up early, though. There are ball games at the Field until 10:00pm and some nights the drinkers — who happen to be garbage generators — hang out on the bleachers, drinking and eating and leaving a lot of food behind.
The best way to catch a bear, as Beth will tell you, is with jelly donuts. During my garbage roundups I’ve found pizza, sandwiches, chips and, yes, donuts. No wonder the bear stopped by.
So I’m taking Beth’s advice. I’ve pulled in my bird feeders and will keep my garbage bag indoors until the morning of Garbage Pickup Day.
City or country the message is the same: Don’t feed the bears!
(photo by Chuck Tague)