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Another bear visit for Pittsburgh Mills mall

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Sunday, July 22, 2012, 9:18 p.m.
 

State and local police were scrambling Sunday evening to prevent a wreck on Route 28 as an adult bear apparently tried to make its way to Pittsburgh Mills mall, where a smaller bear was captured Saturday night after getting inside a Sears store.

The larger bear was seen several times off the northbound side of the highway between the Cheswick and mall interchanges from about 8 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. The smaller bear had been reported at the mall around 8:40 p.m. Saturday.

Police believed the second bear was trying to cross the highway to get to the mall and were hoping it would not cause a crash.

The bear eluded police a number of times after being spotted, moving closer to the mall. Police at times carried shotguns for protection.

"It's a large bear. You can't take a chance," Frazer Officer Stanley Zembrowski said.

After viewing a photo taken by a Valley News Dispatch photographer, a Game Commission officer guessed the bear weighed 300 pounds.

Police briefly stopped all traffic on Route 28 shortly before 9 p.m., when the bear appeared ready to cross, putting both paws up on a guard rail, but it retreated into the brush.

While police waited for it to appear again, the bear apparently doubled back, crossing the road right in front of Dave Dennison's car.

Dennison, 31, of Natrona Heights, said he saw lights of police cars ahead as he drove north, then saw something black come out of the woods in front of him. After just missing it, he stopped to tell police what happened.

"That just scared the mess out of me," he said. "Once I got up on it, I was shocked. I couldn't believe it."

Police believe the larger bear is the same one that made an appearance at the mall shortly before midnight Saturday, after commotion over the smaller bear had died down.

The smaller bear was described as a female yearling, weighing about 125 pounds. It was tranquilized so it could be relocated.

Around 11:45 p.m., police learned of a bear in the parking lot of the Olive Garden restaurant, Frazer police officer Timothy Christian said.

Christian said it appeared to be following the same path as the bear that had been captured earlier.

Police saw the bear around the Olive Garden and LongHorn restaurants before losing sight of it behind LongHorn, Christian said.

The bear did not threaten anyone, and officers did not shoot at it, Christian said.

The larger bear appeared to have Game Commission tags in both ears, said Dan Puhala, a commission wildlife conservation officer.

Puhala said anyone who sees the larger bear should give it space and leave it alone.

Although there was speculation the larger bear could be related to the smaller one, possibly even its mother, Puhala said he doubts the two are connected.

The smaller bear was wearing a collar with a tracking system. It was found to have been from Cambria County, and was taken back there.

He declined to provide more information, referring questions to Game Commission officials.

As for the larger bear, "I don't know what to make of this one," he said.

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