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When Black Bears Come to Town

Updated on July 20, 2012

How to Prepare for (or avoid) a Visit from A Bear


Changing Habitat

Black Bears are losing their habitats to human encroachment
Black Bears are losing their habitats to human encroachment

Living With Black Bears

One late night last summer, my husband let the dog out and stood on our porch. He heard a weird popping noise and some heavy breathing. He turned toward the noise, and found himself standing nearly face to face with a black bear, standing on its hind legs, over six feet tall. The dog took off, my husband slipped back into the house and declared in a startled voice, "There's a bear out there!"

We'd been hearing for weeks from neighbors in our town and surrounding areas about bear sightings, but we'd never seen one ourselves. Our house is unique in that although it is secluded, and somewhat wooded, it is also bordered by a section of highway and a section of town. I really didn't think that a bear would find its way into our yard. We had been suspecting the bears were out there, though, having heard our garbage cans rattle and having seen claw marks on a tree. Now there was no doubt. The bears were here. So what do we do now?

I've lived in Pennsylvania my whole life but have never ever seen a bear. Now it seems sightings are everywhere, even my own yard! I love to be outside, and especially to flower garden, but I suddenly found myself paranoid. Every litle noise, I convinced myself was a bear. I didn't want to be afraid, so I read up on black bears and I called the PA Game Commission.

Bottom line, if you live in PA, or anywhere on the east coast to West Virgina, chances are increasing that you might encounter a black bear. Black bears usually live in heavily forested areas, including mountains and swamps, but humans are now encroaching on bear territory, forcing a change in their habitat. Just last year, an 829 lb black bear was shot near a NJ high school! In my area of PA, black bears are sighted almost daily in the summer months. Last summer, a bear walked right up main street of our town, stopping by the pharmacy. (Maybe he needed a prescription?)

Although black bear attacks are rare (23 humans killed between 1900 and 1980, according to Stephen Herrera), it is important to always respect black bears due to their size, speed and strength. With the changing bear population, you need to educate yourself about black bears, to protect yourself and the bears as well. Read the following black bear facts, and also what to do if you encounter a black bear.


1. Black bears can also be brown, cinnamon, blonde, and rarely, white

2. Males average 6 ft tall and can weigh 200- 600 lbs. Some can exceed 7 ft in length. (largest on record was in New Brunswick at 7.9 ft and 1100 lbs.)

3. 85% of their diet comes from vegetation and insects, but they will eat just about anything including fish and mammals.

4.Bears can double their weight in late summer eating up to 20,000 calories a day.

5.Breeding season is June, July and sometimes August. Males are aggressive toward each other during this time.

6.Adults are mostly nocturnal but juveniles can be active in the daytime. Bears can live up to 25 years.

7. According to lore of indigenous peoples, the Black Bear is of the Great Spirit, while the Grizzly is of the Evil Spirit.

8.Alaska has the highest population of black bears at 100,000. Pennsylvania's estimates are between 8,000-15,000

9. Black bears spend winters in dens. Cubs are born helpless and blind.

10. Black Bears can make "mock charges" at humans, by standing on their hind legs, and with noises of aggression such as growls, woofs, snorts and popping jaws.


1. Eliminate food sources. Take away bird feeders, including hummingbird feeders. Put garbage out as close to pick-up time as possible. Be vigilant of compost piles (black bears are attracted to fruit). Clean all grease off outdoor grills.

2. Keep dogs chained up so they won't chase bears

3. Don't "free-feed" pets outside. (Make sure pet food is eaten.)


1. Stay Calm

2. Get back, move away slowly. 

2. Make noise. Black bears can make out human forms, but rely on sense of smell. (I've been told they can smell bird seed a mile away!)

3. Don't run and don't climb a tree! Black bears can run up to 35 mph and are excellent tree climbers.

4. Stay away from any cubs.

5. If necessary, FIGHT BACK! Black bear attacks are rare, but do occur. Just a few weeks ago in my area a woman was bitten and scratched by a black bear.

Enjoy the beauty of black bears!

Since last summer, I have taken all the necessary precautions to avoid having black bears become a nuisance in my yard. I have removed all bird feeders and other food sources. Our dog is chained. Our grill is clean. And there's been no problem with our garbage. We have had several more sightings of black bears. A mamma and her cub. And a big male who almost ventured into our garage. But I'm not afraid anymore. I'm just appreciative and in awe!

Black bears are excellent tree climbers!
Black bears are excellent tree climbers! | Source
Black Bears are attracted to bird feeders, including hummingbird feeders
Black Bears are attracted to bird feeders, including hummingbird feeders | Source
Black bears can be other colors, including (rarely) white.
Black bears can be other colors, including (rarely) white. | Source


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    • g-girl11 profile image

      g-girl11 5 years ago

      Yes, chef. That is the goal that I am after--harmony. So far, so good! Thanks for reading and commenting!

    • g-girl11 profile image

      g-girl11 5 years ago

      Thanks Horatio! You made me laugh with your "one punch" line! People have fought back with whatever is in their hands, including binoculars. I prefer the technique of avoiding them in the first place! Thanks for the comment and for the votes!

    • chef-de-jour profile image

      Andrew Spacey 5 years ago from Near Huddersfield, West Yorkshire,UK

      Sounds like you're going to need the bare necessities - someone who understands bear and can translate the whole tooth, bearing in mind the fact that bears often speak a load of baloony.

      Will the bears claw back their territory?

      Great hub. Thank you for this. I realise it's a very serious issue - black bears in a back garden! - I can't imagine how families with very small children are reacting. But the bears are only doing what comes naturally I guess - going for the easy pickings.

      I hope you can all exist in some sort of harmony and that no one - bear and human- comes to any harm.

    • Horatio Plot profile image

      Horatio Plot 5 years ago from Bedfordshire, England.

      What a great Hub. Fight back, Huh! Better be sure to knock him out with one punch!

      My brother lives in Pennsylvania, I'd better check he's OK.

      Great facts about Bears.

      Voted up, shared on HP and Pinned.

    • profile image

      John Connor 5 years ago

      Here is a link to a hub I wrote about this topic;

    • g-girl11 profile image

      g-girl11 5 years ago

      Thanks mecheshier! Black bears I can get used to, but grizzlies? NO WAY! I'm not familiar with the best ways to avoid a grizzly bear, but I do know there are different ways to approach different bears. Stay safe!

    • mecheshier profile image

      mecheshier 5 years ago

      Great Hub. I live where there are both black and Grizzly bears. The worst thing to do here is to carry pepper spray. This is because the park pepper sprayed the garbage cans and bears now associate pepper spray with food. The best thing to do is travel in groups of 3 or more people when hiking the backwoods. Make plenty of noise and walk slowly. I suppose all areas are different when it comes to handling bears.

      Thank you for such a great Hub. Voted up for useful.

    • g-girl11 profile image

      g-girl11 5 years ago

      If others have seen them around you, chances are you may soon, too! The game commission also told me they were probably around a lot more times than I realized. Thanks for commenting and I hope the advice helps you or someone you know.

    • daydreamer13 profile image

      daydreamer13 5 years ago

      Bears are pretty common here. Although none have made there way into my backyard, I've heard stories from others who've seen them. You've given excellent advice here. Good hub!