Trash day, mating season and waking up hungry. Any of those factors can get a black bear moving and all three were in play on Friday when one made its way right into a Bensalem neighborhood, causing quite a stir.
"This is the most excitement we’ve had in 30 years,” said Michelle Williams who was outside her home on Edge Avenue near Bensalem Boulevard, just before 9 a.m. on Friday when her neighbor spotted the bear.
“We were all outside because some of the houses got robbed on the street last night. Police were here and all the sudden my neighbor looks down at the corner here and she sees a bear walking down the street. She says, ‘Oh my God, was that a bear!’”
Police told everyone on the block to get inside and began searching the neighborhood.
A block or so away, Mike Straub was driving back from the store to his home on Fulton Avenue and wondered what all the police cars and animal control were doing.
“When I pulled into my driveway, I actually just seen it walking right by,” he said. “He was on all fours. He was a couple of hundred pounds, definitely, if not more.” Straub darted inside his home to tell his nephews and mother to stay indoors, and then went back out to alert police.
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By late afternoon, the bear had not been found and Bensalem police were keeping the community updated via social media with postings like this on their Facebook page:
"We lost sight of the bear and are monitoring the area. We ask residents to cover their trash, cover their grills and take any other precautions necessary. This bear is apparently smarter than the average police officer."
That touch of humor provoked a string of good-natured comments and a few fun memes.
According to the Pennsylvania Game Commission, black bears are intelligent, curious, “needn’t be feared, nor should they be dismissed as harmless. They simply need to be respected.” Adult bears usually weigh about 200 pounds and are agile enough to run up to 35 mph. They are on the move at dusk and dawn, primarily, looking for food. Today was track pickup day in the neighborhood. It is also the beginning of mating season.
The bear population in Pennsylvania has increased at the same time residential areas have grown. That means bears and people are more likely to encounter one another. Bear attacks, however, are extremely rare, according to the Game Commission. If you do meet a bear, they advise:
Stay Calm: If you see a bear and it hasn't seen you, leave the area calmly. While moving away, talk to help the bear discover your presence.
Get Back: If you have a close encounter, back away slowly while facing the bear. Avoid direct eye contact, which a bear may perceive as a threat. Give the bear plenty of room to escape. Wild bears rarely attack people unless they feel threatened or provoked. If you're on a trail, step off on the downhill side and slowly leave the area.
Don’t climb or run: If a cub is nearby, try to move away from it. But be alert, there could be other cubs. Never climb a tree to escape, because sows chase their cubs up trees when they detect danger. If you climb a tree, a sow may interpret that as an attempt to get her cubs. Stay on the ground and don’t make any sudden movements. Running may prompt the bear to give chase;
nobody can outrun a bear.
Pay Attention: Bears will use all of their senses to figure out what you are. If they recognize you as a person, some may stand upright or move closer in their efforts to detect odors in the air currents. Don’t consider this a sign of aggression. Once a bear identifies you, it will usually leave. However, if the bear stays, it may pop its jaws as a warning sign that it’s uncomfortable. That’s a sign for you to leave. Back away and slowly leave the area. If the jaw popping warning is ignored, some bears
have been known to bluff charge to within a few feet. If this occurs, wave your arms wildly and shout at the bear.
Fight Back: Again, black bear attacks are extremely rare. However, they have occurred. If a bear attacks, fight back. Bears have been driven away when people have fought back with rocks, sticks, binoculars and even their bare hands.
“I’m not gonna be the hero,” said Mike Straub. “It was pretty scary.”