With the rise of industrial parks and deforestation, bear habitats are becoming smaller and smaller, and Luzerne County has been seeing the effects the past few years. Bears are likely walking through the yards of a neighborhood near you in their hunt for food, and it’s brought up a lot of concerns. At the Dupont Crime Watch meeting on Aug. 25, Pennsylvania Game Commission Officer Rick Jones addressed the issue for concerned Dupont residents.
While more bears have been seen across the county over the past few years, a large male bear has been seen repeatedly near Wyoming Avenue in Dupont. Resident George Jendrey has had repeat visits from the same bear.
“I have drums of oil in my backyard. He took the top off and ate up the oil,” Jendrey said.
Hibernation season for bears usually begins between late October and early December and they emerge in March and April, all dependent on the weather. Right now, food is on the forefront of their minds and garbage cans, dirty recycling and bird feeders are drawing them into neighborhoods.
Dupont is currently on the waiting list for a bear trap, since the bear being seen hasn’t been caught and tagged yet. In the meantime, Officer Jones offered residents some tips on what to do if they see a bear and how to keep the animals away from their properties.
To keep safe when you see a bear, avoid approaching it but make yourself know.
“If you see the bear but it doesn’t see you, clap your hands and they’ll move on,” Jones said.
Bears are just looking for food, and they have very bad eyesight so they may not see you right away. While clapping will encourage the bear to leave, if you can get into your home safely, do so quickly and call the game commission.
Jones also cautioned residents not to shoot the bear. If you shoot a bear only because it is on your property, you’ll face some large fines that are determined by the size of the bear.
“Bears don’t often attack people, so there’s no reason to shoot it,” he said.
To keep bears away, Jones advises residents avoid putting out garbage until the night before collection.
“Spray your garbage bags with ammonia when you do put them out to keep them away,” he said. Since bears have poor eyesight, they have an amazing sense of smell, and they don’t like the smell of ammonia.
Bob Price, Dupont Crime Watch president, echoed Jones, stressing residents should avoid things that will attract bears.
“We’re not trying to hurt him, we’re just trying to move him along,” Price said.
Waiting to put your garbage out, and spraying it with ammonia if you’re in an area where bears have been sighted, will help keep the bears from coming back.
Jones also advises residents to bring bird feeders in at night, because bird seed is another favorite food for bears.
“If you’re in an area that’s seen the bear a few times, take your bird feeders in for a week or so,” he said.
He also pointed out that there are a few home remedies people use that actually don’t help keep bears away. The smell of moth balls and Clorox don’t bother them, he said, but moth balls may help keep other animals, like raccoons and skunks, out of your yard.
While hibernation season is coming up, that doesn’t mean bears will remain asleep the entire time.
“We’ve seen bears come out of their den during the winter,” said Jones, “but if it’s too cold, they’ll go right back in.”
Jones also noted no matter the time of year, call the Pennsylvania Game Commission at 570-675-1143 if you see a bear or report it to the local Crime Watch.