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Unexpected visitor prompts call to game commission

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Thursday, May 7, 2009

Kathy DeMarco and her family have had a visitor the last several mornings -- one that was unexpected.

"Teddy," the name the family gave the more than 200-pound black bear, has been "visiting" the Bryson Hill, Dunbar residence for several days. DeMarco said the bear seems to be attracted to the bird feeder in the backyard.

"We've lived here for 24 years, and this is the first time we've had a bear visit us," DeMarco said. "For the last couple of mornings, we've woken up to this guy in our backyard. He's even looked in our windows."

DeMarco said the area behind her home is wooded, but it's a residential area with nearby houses.

DeMarco's husband, Jim, has been a resident of Bryson Hill all of his life and has never witnessed a black bear in the area.

DeMarco said the family first received a visit from Teddy in November. But that was just one time.

Two weeks ago the bear reappeared and kept coming back.

"He's been coming out every morning," said DeMarco, noting the bear has been brave enough to look in the window of her husband's business, Sharp as a Tac, which is located near their home. "He just stood there looking in. He doesn't run way. We'd yell at him and he'd leave and then 10 minutes later he's back."

DeMarco said there was evidence the bear even made its way up on her home's deck.

She called the Pennsylvania Game Commission. Officials there told her to remove bird feeders from the yard.

Since the feeders have been gone, Teddy hasn't been around, DeMarco added.

She noted that said during Teddy's visits, he did some damage to several trees, stripping off the bark in attempts to get food.

According to the Pennsylvania Game Commission's Web site, black bears are surprisingly agile. Population estimates in recent years in Pennsylvania have ranged up around 15,000.

Adults usually weigh around 200 pounds; males are heavier than females. Some weigh up to 600 pounds or more. Black bears measure about 3 feet high when on all fours or about 5 to 7 feet tall when standing upright.

According to the game commission, bears may be on the move at any time, but they're usually most active at dusk and dawn. Bears are usually dormant in winter, though.

The game commission says to avoid bear visits make sure you don't encourage them by putting garbage where it's available to them or, even worse, by intentionally feeding them.

Black bears will consume almost anything. They are omnivorous. They will eat berries, corn, acorns, beechnuts, grass, carrion, honey and insects. They will eat human food, bird feed, pet foods and livestock feed. They also raid cornfields and beehives.

The game commission says that during late summer and fall, black bears fatten up for winter hibernation. At this time, they may actively feed for up to 20 hours a day, ingesting up to 20,000 calories.

Once bears find easily accessible food sources, whether on a farm or in a housing development, they lose their wariness of people and will keep coming back as long as food is available. Officials say the best way to get rid of these unwanted visitors is to remove the food source for a month or more.

The game commission says if a bear is visiting your property, there are two possible courses of action. The first is to make loud noises or shout at the bear -- but keep your distance. The second option is to leave the bear alone and clean up the bear's mess after it leaves. Follow up by making sure you eliminate whatever attracted the bear in the first place.

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