For the better part of the last two weeks, a black bear has been ambling its way across northern Harford County as it crisscrosses Central Maryland in search of suitable habitat.
For the time being, the bear is being left to its own devices, which has consisted so far of roaming from Jarrettsville, westward through Baltimore and Carroll counties, and back east into Harford where it was sighted several times this weekend – even stopping at a Forest Hill vineyard.
In several of the sightings, eyewitnesses have reported seeing the bear traveling with a smaller bear, which has led some to assume the pair is a mother and her cub – a claim that authorities can not yet substantiate.
“We’ve heard the same thing too, but have not been able to verify,” Robert A Beyer, Associate Director of the Information & Education Program for the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, said Tuesday.
The Harford County Sheriff’s Office handled several bear-related calls over the weekend before finally deciding to refer all calls of sightings to DNR, which has been monitoring the animal’s travels since its arrival in the region.
The bear was first seen in Harford County on June 5 near Youngston Road and Route 165 in Jarrettsville, according to Beyer.
“Since then, the bear has traveled through northern Baltimore County into Carroll County, and has looped back through Baltimore County and into Harford County again trying to find its way to suitable bear habitat,” he added.
Beyer said DNR received several calls advising the agency of the bear’s travels across the three counties, but there have been no complaints regarding the bear and its behavior.
On the morning of Friday, June 11, a witness reported to the Sheriff’s Office a mother and cub bear at Troyer Road in White Hall.
The following morning, Saturday, June 12, the mother and cub were seen again and reported to the Sheriff’s Office on Jarrettsville Pike near Phillips Mill Road in Forest Hill.
The next day, at about 7:15 a.m. on Sunday, June 13, the Sheriff’s Office received a call from a citizen who saw a bear at Harford Vineyard in the 1300 block of West Jarrettsville Road. The caller reported the bear weighed approximately 90-100 pounds. This sighting was also substantiated by a deputy on duty.
There was also an unsubstantiated report of a bear seen near the southern end of Rocks State Park at some point on Sunday. DNR believes the bear, for the time being, may still be wandering around Harford.
“As of yesterday [Monday] it was still in the county, but it appears to be moving about 5 to 15 miles per day, which is common for dispersing bears. So depending on its direction of travel it may not be in Harford County for long,” Beyer said.
In general, DNR’s policy is to remain hands-off until, or unless, the bear becomes a nuisance and there is an imminent safety concern for either the public or the bear.
This has been a busy season for bears in Central Maryland already, but even in light of the traffic accident during which a black bear was recently killed in Baltimore County, DNR is not changing it approach to handling the animal.
“We will continue to monitor its movements. We have found after dealing with many, many bears over the years that the best thing we can do is to monitor it travels and eventually it will move to an area more conducive to bears. Again, safety issues will dictate any actions we take,” Beyer said.
To avoid such safety issues, DNR recommends the following:
“Bears will not normally come near homes unless there is something that attracts them to the area. You should make loud noises, such as yelling at the bear or banging pots and pans together, in an effort to scare the bear away. After the bear has left, check around the house and remove anything that could be acting as an attractant. This could be bird food, hummingbird feeders, pet food, garbage, etc. Do not leave pet food unattended. Take your trash out the morning of pick-up or use a bear proof trash container. Cleaning trash cans with ammonia can help eliminate any attraction.”
And perhaps, even more importantly, given the past experiences of young black bears unfortunate enough to wander into Harford County:
“It is illegal for an individual to kill a bear unless the bear is attacking livestock or it threatens your life. Under no circumstances should you kill a bear just because it is near your house.”
According to Beyer, bear movements in the central portion of Maryland have become more frequent over the last several years as they seek out occupied bear habitat in Pennsylvania, Virginia, or western Maryland.