The black bear sighted in several locations in Harford County over the weekend was no hallucination – one family has photographs to prove it.
More sightings of what is believed to be a young male bear have also been reported this week in Harford, a Maryland Department of Natural Resources official said Thursday, as the bear appears to be making his way north in search of more friendlier surroundings.
On Tower Road, in a sparsely populated neighborhood near Aberdeen, around 5:30 p.m. Saturday, Megan Moe's 6-year-old daughter, Madison Thompson, told her family that there was a bear in the backyard of the residence, Moe wrote in an e-mail Wednesday.
Moe said she and her mother didn't initially believe the girl, but Madison persisted and told them several more times about the bear before they looked out the window and indeed saw if for themselves.
Upon seeing the bear, Moe ran out to her car, grabbed a camera and starting taking pictures before her father yelled and the bear ran, Moe wrote.
"I was probably closer to the bear than I should have been, as he was headed towards me and the house, but I really wanted a picture," she wrote.
The Harford County Sheriff's Office confirmed there were sightings of a bear on both Tower Road and that a deputy also saw a bear on Montreal Drive in the same general shortly after 5:30 p.m. Saturday, Capt. Keith Warner said Monday.
The deputy described that bear as two-to-three years old, 250 to 300 pounds and approximately six feet tall, Warner wrote in an e-mail, adding that it was non-aggressive. However, the bear spotted and photographed on Tower Road by Megan Moe is clearly not that size, and state natural resources officials say people seeing a bear in the wild for the first time tend to overestimate its size.
A black bear sighting was also reported earlier in the day on Saturday in the Bel Air area, near the Maryland Golf & Country Clubs.
In the past when black bears have been seen in Harford, the animals have tended to roam over a widespread area, rather than stay in one place, behavior consistent with foraging and, in the case of the young male bear who was killed in the county in 2003, seeking female companionship.
Megan Moe's photographs are among the clearest of any taken of the bears reported in Harford over the past 15 years.
Not unusual, DNR says
There have been several bear sightings over the past few weeks in Harford County, according to Wildlife Biologist Ron Norris, with the Department of Natural Resources office in Bel Air.
The most recent sightings were south of Route 1, by the Conowingo Dam Thursday morning, Norris said.
Norris added that the bear sightings are not unusual in Harford County and there have been bear sightings regularly every year. Residents should not be alarmed about seeing any bears or fearful to have their children in the backyard, he said.
"We don't live in a society where bears are aggressive, at least right around here," he said.
Bears are typically frightened of people and, if you see a bear, Norris said to shout at it or make loud noises until it leaves.
He stressed that residents should not try to capture or corral the bear and said the Harford bear appears to be the same one they believe was in Jacksonville in eastern Baltimore County last week and now appears to be heading north.
Hopefully, Norris said, this particular bear will make it into Pennsylvania, which is more rural and secluded and where the bear has less chance of getting into trouble. Bears travel "quite a bit," he said, and will keep looking until they find a better place to stay.
"They're not in their ideal or prime habitat with being in suburbia like this," Norris added.
They also believe it is a young bear, possibly born in January or February, or even last year, that is traveling through the area, according to Norris. Young bears, he added, are not "savvy" with the world and will be opportunistic when it comes to getting meals.
If a bear appears to be hanging around a property, Norris suggested that residents "be cautious in terms of what might be keeping them there." This includes trash cans, which Norris said should be secured with items such as bungee cords.
Bears are also attracted to bird feeders, and Norris said people should stop using them for the time being.
"Keep anything that gives him an opportunity to give him a free meal away from him," he said, adding that the bear would "move on."
Typically, bear sightings are more frequent in the late summer and early fall when mating season starts and the mother and father bears force the young bears out of their territory, he said. Even so, the recent sightings are not unusual and Norris said it is really a "neat thing" to see one.
"If you see a bear, think to yourself 'how cool is that, I just saw a bear,'" he said.
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