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11 black bear sightings reported in Prince George's, Howard, Montgomery counties this week

Eleven black bear sightings — eight in one day — were reported in Prince George's, Howard and Montgomery counties this week, including two near a student dormitory at the University of Maryland, College Park, authorities said.

People reported bear sightings in Hyattsville and Columbia Tuesday, Natural Resources Police spokeswoman Candy Thomson said. Other calls have come in from Beltsville and Silver Spring.

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The agency's experts believe the sightings are all the same bear, a yearling male meandering the area in search of new territory, Thomson said. After spending the first year as a cub with their mothers, black bears leave to find a new habitat, she said. Generally they end up in more rural areas in western Maryland.

"You have a lot of young bears looking for territory to call their own," she said. "Male bears need a pretty big hunk of territory, females less so. They keep roaming until they find an area they can claim. It's all territorial, trying to find a new home."

A bear, perhaps the same one, was holding up traffic last week, sitting on Interstate 29 South at Interstate 70. A Natural Resources Police officer responded to shoo away the bear and drivers slowing down to take pictures, Thomson said.

University of Maryland, College Park police alerted students, faculty and staff Tuesday about the bear sightings Sunday around Elkton Hall, a residence hall on the northeast side of the campus near Maryland Stadium and the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center.

The department shared a list of bear safety tips:

Never feed bears.

Don't panic and don't approach it.

Back away slowly.

If you are outside, go to the closest building and go inside.

Most bears fear people and will leave when they see you.

If a bear growls, snaps its jaws, slaps the ground or brush, or bluff charges: you are too close.

"Once you are in a safe location, call police right away," the alert said.

Bears are "opportunistic creatures," Thomson added, and police advise area residents to bring their trash cans inside a garage, if possible, and take down bird feeders.

"They'll stay as long as there's a food source," she said. "If you fill a bird feeder full of black oil sunflower seeds, that's like M&Ms to a bear."

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For more information on how to prepare for a bear sighting, visit http://dnr2.maryland.gov/wildlife/Pages/hunt_trap/bblivingwith.aspx.

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