Don Jacobs is pictured with a baby Black Bear during a tagging expedition held recently in Wilkes-Barre Township.
Be prepared to see black bears. That should really be the title of this article. Bear hunters managed to harvest over three thousand bear last hunting season. The big question is, were they taken from out of the urban population or not? The urban bear study is trying to learn more about the bears that are constantly raiding garbage cans and walking the streets of our communities. The study began last summer when Wildlife Conservation Officer and Game Commission Biologists trapped and collared nuisance bear in parts of the Wyoming Valley.
The Pennsylvania Game Commission reports that Black Bear numbers have increased substantially in Pennsylvania, from approximately 4,000 in the 1970s to around 14,000 today. This increased growth in population has provided more opportunities for people to see bears, which is an experience many treasure, and bear hunting has greatly improved as well. The downside is that bears are opportunists and find easy food sources and safety within the confines of local communities. Thirty years ago hunters were forced to travel to the Poconos and northern tier counties to hunt black bear. Nowadays, bear can be found in 55 counties and are hunted with success in most of them. This change has also brought with it an increase in conflicts between humans and bears.
While the population continues to grow so does the number of housing developments and posted properties not allowing hunting. The research team will be at it again this spring and fall. Black bears will be trapped in tube traps baited with jelly donuts. Once captured the bear will be tranquilized, ear tagged and fitted with a specialized collar. The collar relies on both cell phone service and GPS (satellites) to help track the movements of the bear. The bear’s location is recorded several times a day and relayed to the biologist analyzing the data. The northeast study area mainly takes in the Wyoming Valley and part of Lower Lackawanna County. The trapping will primarily occur at residences that report sightings of bears or nuisance bear problems.
Earlier this week we watched as the radio/GPS collar placed on a female bear last summer lead biologists right to a bear’s den. We were on the mountain overlooking the Kmart on route 309 in Wilkes-Barre Township. The radio signal was fading in and out but the GPS was saying that the team was within fifty yards or so of the den. The mountain was steep to say the least, but the researchers cautiously climbed the side hill while looking into the cracks and crevasses made by the rocks and ledges. It didn’t take long for them to locate the den. They were convinced that this female should be nursing cubs but they wouldn’t know for sure until they tranquilized her and looked for themselves.
Armed with an air gun loaded with a dart, Bear Biologist Mark Ternet crawled close enough for a shot. The idea was to replace her radio collar while invited guests held the cubs. This bear was actually nursing four cubs. They all weighed in at just over five pounds. Holding a bear cub is quite the experience. Their claws are already pretty sharp, their fur is black and thick and they are very alert. Volunteers were asked to hold the cubs close to their chest and even under their coats if they begin to shake. The cubs were processed one at a time. First they were weighed and measured and then they received ear tags in both ears. It turned out that there were two males and two females in this litter. Before being returned to their mother in the den, each cub was given a medical checkup by an on sight veterinarian. The entire process took about an hour to complete. We all walked down the hill away from the den expecting the mother bear to slowly wake up like nothing ever happened.
The entire adventure took place overlooking the Wyoming Valley while trying to talk over the truck noise of Interstate 81. This is the life of an urban bear. Now there are five mouths to feed, five animals to move throughout the streets of Luzerne County and four more bears now involved in the urban bear research. This was just one of the urban bears not harvested last year and researchers believe there are many more with cubs living in thisstudy area. That’s why they are trying to learn more about the black bear population.
For information about this research stay tuned for a future Pennsylvania Outdoor Life program on this subject. For more information and tips on living with black bears, you can check out the Pennsylvania Game Commission Homepage at
Consider this your personal invitation to visit with us at the Expo. The Pennsylvania Outdoor Life Expo 2011 will take place at the Lycoming Mall in Pennsdale (near Muncy). This four day Expo will run from Thursday, March 24th to Sunday, March 27th during regular mall hours. The event will feature local outdoor businesses, The Pennsylvania Game Commission, local and state conservation groups as well as other state agencies. The Expo will highlight live animals such as whitetail deer, red deer, game birds and Lazy B Homestead farm animals. Pennsylvania Outdoor Life Field Staff Member Rick Koval will be displaying a collection of reptiles and amphibians as well. Remember there is free parking, free admission and free entry for prizes. The grand prize this year is a 16 foot bass boat from Hall’s Marine of Muncy.
Plus, there are additional prizes to be awarded at the Expo! One lucky person will win two days of fishing for up to four people on Lake Ontario with Charter Captain Ron Jacoby of Beginners Luck Sport Fishing. Also three lucky viewers will be chosen to receive one of the three framed autographed eagle posters from Gene Maslar. Both Ron and Gene have appeared on Pennsylvania Outdoor Life. Once again Pennsylvania Outdoor Life and Top Calls have teamed up to make a limited edition Pennsylvania Outdoor Life turkey call. These numbered box calls can be purchased at the expo. They are available in advance online through Top Calls. The artwork selected for this year’s call was created by Pennsylvania Outdoor Life Field Staff Member Dave Aucker. For More information and directions visit wnep.com and click on the Pennsylvania Outdoor Life Expo page. See you at the Expo.