Caught In The Act

August 25, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

Black bear raids garbage during broad daylight in Tobyhanna Pennsylvania on August 24, 2014.




Typically the neighborhood residents go out first thing in the morning on garbage day and find their garbage cans turned over by this night visitor and bags of garbage missing. Bears in this area are most active at dusk and dawn and since these homes are mere feet from state land (Tobyhanna State Park) the bears often stray into the neighborhood this time of year for an easy meal when trying to fatten up for the harsh winter months in Tobyhanna, Pa.




Black bears typically fear people so they generally try to avoid people but can be attracted to homes when they find food sources that are common in residential areas like garbage, pet food, bird feed, and livestock feed. The problem is once bears find easily accessible food sources they lose their wariness of people and will keep coming back as long as food is available. The way I see it is bears are opportunists so when people put their garbage and bird feeders out with a big ole neon sign that says free meal – can you really blame a bear for taking the bait?




Black bears spend a lot of time searching for food and eating. As black bears prepare for hibernation during the winter months they consume more than 10000 calories a day (I’ve heard up to 20000 calories) as they actively feed for up to 20 hours a day. A bear’s heart rate and breathing slow during hibernation and its body temperature drops. During hibernation black bears do not eat, drink, defecate, or urinate. Hibernating bears rely on stored fat to make it through the winter months; however a hibernating bear may emerge if it’s disturbed.




Under a microscope wildlife biologists can tell the age of a bear by counting the rings in a tooth - similar to counting the rings of a tree. The oldest bear I know of was found here in Pennsylvania and determined to be 30 years old. Black bears generally live as long as 25 years in the wild but may live longer in captivity.




Most people realize bears are very strong but many don’t seem to understand just how fast a bear is. A black bear can climb a tree at six weeks old, are good swimmers, and can run up to 35 miles per hour. The average healthy person runs more like 12-15 miles per hour for short distances and more like 5-8 miles per hour for long distances (not including top performing athletes) so don’t bother trying to outrun any bears in this lifetime (unless your plan is simply to outrun the rest of your group).




As intimidating as a bear can be, a person is 180 times more likely to be killed by a bee and 160,000 times more likely to be killed in a car accident.


With the state land behind my house I get wildlife in my backyard regularly ranging in size from hummingbirds to wild turkey and from chipmunks to black bear with the most common wildlife being white-tailed deer but for me and my wife it’s always an added bonus when the bears step out from the dense trails in the woods behind the house that they usually travel so we can marvel their beauty (from the safety of our home)…


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