A dead bear found on the side of the road on Route 851 on the Maryland-Pennsylvania line, killed after being hit by a vehicle, a wildlife conservation police officer said, caused a stir Thursday morning.
The male black bear, which was about 2 years old and weighed between 125 and 150 pounds, was reported after being seen shortly after 5 a.m. on Route 851 in Fawn Township, Shawn Musser, a York County wildlife conservation officer with the Pennsylvania Game Commission, said Thursday.
When Musser arrived at 7 a.m., "there was a pretty big crowd; I would say about 10 vehicles were around," he said.
No sign of the driver or vehicle that hit the bear was found, and the incident was ruled "an accident," Musser said.
"I didn't see any car parts; there was no car there," he said.
The bear is believed to be a "transient bear," one that has been "kicked out" by its mother at around age 2, Musser said. The bear might have been one that came from Maryland, he said.
"Usually they follow the river hills. They will come up along the river, they will start making their way west and they will find whatever food source they can – corn, whatever," he said.
Although such a close bear encounter is "absolutely" rare, Musser said, the bear population is increasing in Pennsylvania and Maryland, which could be the reason the animal would have wandered near the road.
The bear killed Thursday is the third bear killed in York County since November 2014, Musser said.
Musser, who has been with the Game Commission for six years, said he used to get a report or two every year of a bear being sighted.
"If we do get a bear in York County, we get thousands of phone calls about it," he said. "It feels like bear activity really is starting to pick up more and more each year."
The Fawn Township bear was not blocking traffic per se, but the gathering crowd was, he pointed out.
He said less hunting may be taking place these days.
"If you don't have a good hunting season, then the next year, that's just more bears that's going to be breeding," Musser said.
Also, "there's always going to be more road-killed in general, because we are increasing in population," he said.
The bear killed on the state line was the size of an average-sized deer, so damage to a car would be comparable to striking a deer, he said.
Another bear hit last year was off I-83 just south of Harrisburg, he said, and the car was damaged "pretty good."
The Fawn Township bear was skinned and its hide was tanned to be used for educational and school programs, he said. The meat will be given to a needy family.
"We try to use as much of it as possible," he said.
Anyone who runs across a dead bear is advised to leave it alone and contact the Maryland Department of Natural Resources or Pennsylvania Game Commission, he said.