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Black bear spotted at Rocky Gorge Reservoir in West Laurel

A West Laurel woman reported seeing a black bear at the end of Supplee Lane at 7 a.m. Dec. 4.

Linda Sharp said she observed the black bear for about six seconds, "lumbering along," while she was on a Sunday morning walk at Rocky Gorge Reservoir.

"It's a funny story now," she said, "but I froze in my tracks, did a double-take thinking it was cattle, but then realized it was a bear."

Sharp said she ran back to the gate at the entrance of her walking path and, as a retired member of the Anne Arundel County Police, where she worked for 22 years, said she felt it was her responsibility to call agencies that she believed would deal with the bear.

Sharp called the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission Police, the Park Police, Prince George's County Police and 911, to no avail. She eventually filed a report with the dispatcher at the Department of Natural Resources.

"I've told everyone about the bear," Sharp said. "I'm grateful I didn't get attacked. I think he was fishing. My hands were shaking, and they haven't shaken like that in more than a decade."

Harry Spiker, who is a game mammal section leader at DNR, or as he said jokingly, the "state bear biologist," said seeing bears is not normal, but not unheard of.

"It's more normal in the fall and late summer because they disperse starting in the spring," Spiker said. "Juveniles can be more than 100 pounds and they move off to find their own territory," usually following the Potomac River south. "They move around and wander a lot, and can travel more than 100 miles until they move back to an area where there are other bears."

Spiker said there are usually a few sightings for a week or two, and then "we do not hear about them any more."

The resident population of bears, he said, is in Western Maryland. "This one is just wandering, looking for a place to call home. One thing it needs to come home, is other bears."

Spiker said that if residents do see a bear, they should know that they are docile in nature and can get into human food, such as trash and birdseed. He recommended that residents keep birdseed or trash inside for a week or so, and the bear should move away.

Residents can call DNR to report sightings at 410-260-8540.

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