April 3, 2008


Filed under: FEATURE STORIES — carolyncholland @ 12:25 am
Tags: ,

Black bear mamas can turn vicious if they sense their cubs are in danger. Yet during the spring of 2007, Lois Manon dared to cuddle a small black bear cub on her rural Ligonier area property. (view photo: )

She was completely safe—mama bear was tranquilized, sleeping peacefully. Her son and daughter were cuddled by a small group of persons who had accompanied a game commissioner with the task of marking the bears.

“It was educational,” Lois stated.

The game commissioners had located mama bear by flying over the area in a helicopter, picking up signals from a collar they had placed on her at a previous time. She was located just under an old tree root beside a path on Lois’ property. She had dug into ground to make her “den,” which was so non-intrusive that a person could walk right past her and never notice her.

When the game commissioners completed their task, they smeared Vicks on the cubs so the mother bear wouldn’t pick up a human scent. Then they placed the mother and baby bears back in the den.

A game commissioner returned to Lois’ several times to make certain the bears were OK. Once they were seen eating skunk cabbage.

Below are links to photos that Debbie managed to get on a night-time camera mounted so that it took regularly timed shots throughout the night:

Several years earlier, a police officer and several persons “flew” out of my neighbor’s yard and down the street while I was sitting on my porch in Connellsville, Pennsylvania, cooling off with a glass of iced tea. I nearly missed them, since I was absorbed in a good book as they flashed by.

I yelled out to a straggler, “What’s going on?”

Our neighborhood had a high potential for crime, so I fully expected to be ordered into my house where I would be protected from the criminal they were chasing.

Instead, I heard “BEAR!”

What? Bear? The city had a population of 9,000 and my house was in the midst of it, nowhere near the wilds.

“BEAR?” I countered. “Did I hear you right?” I jumped up and ran for my pen, paper and camera. After all, as a photojournalist for the local paper it was my responsibility to report interesting stories.

I followed the crowd to a point two short blocks away. Everyone except the police, who were attempting to keep people away from an apartment backyard, was looking skyward. I had heard the racers correctly, I discovered, as I spotted a treed bear.

Taking advantage of my reporter status, I asked permission to approach the tree with my camera. The black bear was curled up in a crook where two branches joined, casually chomping on leaves he plucked from the branches.

While the emergency personnel discussed ways to entice him down, he relished the audience response to his entertainment.

Firemen unrolled their hoses, hoping if they sprayed the bear he would be catchable. They warned everyone to move back. No one knew where the bear would run once the hose was turned on. I watched, amazed, as parents allowed their children to remain outside during the procedure.

When the hose went on, the bear shot like a flash out of the tree and ran down the street—fortunately, no one was in his way! The crowd followed him to his next destination, a tree in an elderly woman’s backyard.

This time, a six-foot wooden fence separated the bear from the crowd. Again, my camera allowed me permission to approach the fence and photograph the bear in his new tree.

This time he seemed a little shaken, and I limited my photography because dark was descending and I didn’t want the camera’s flash to frighten him.

It was after dark before the bear was enticed out of the tree—I do believe they hit him with a tranquilizer gun. He was then taken to a wooded, safe area and released.

The Pennsylvania woods are home to 15,000 black bears. Sometimes they leave the woods and explore areas humans have removed from them. Often it is a young black bear, pushed out of his home by his mother so she can mate again. Sometimes it’s a male bear, and occasionally it’s a sow (mother bear) with cubs.

For all intents and purposes my subject is black bears, sightings of which, due to the nature of Pennsylvania, occur routinely. Already this year, my yard has been visited twice—my bird feeder poles are now permanently bent.

My “bear” file holds clips of bear sightings through the year and throughout the region and the country. Most encounters end up safely; a few end tragically.

A bear was spotted traveling in Penn Township, Manor and New Stanton before being seen in a Hempfield Township backyard around noon. It stopped to quench its thirst at a spring at the edge of the yard, where there were woods. Eventually it wandered back into the woods, probably headed towards the Chestnut Ridge. (Trib-Review June 21, 2005)

A black bear greeted residents, scampering along Somerset Borough streets…several weeks ago a bear cub was spotted meandering in a parking lot near Somerset Hospital…(an unidentified publication).

A 385-pound bear seeking an education roamed through Clarion Borough and onto the Clarion University campus. It hung around for three hours before safety officials subdued it with tranquilizers. Before the drugs took effect it dashed down Main St. (Tribune-Review, July 1, 2004)

Brazen black bears are an increasing problem in Maryland…they’ve entered homes, and even the noise of firing guns doesn’t scare them off. There are bear nuisance complaints for crop damage, property damage, garbage raids and the like—somewhat over 200 a year. More of the reports, however, include aggressive behaviors such as clawing at windows or doors, snapping jaws or simply refusing to leave. (unidentified publication, July 31, 2000)

In Aspen, Colorado, a paralyzed man lay helpless in his bed while a black bear ransacked his kitchen, breaking dishes and devouring four pounds of chocolate. (AARP Bulletin, pp 4, Nov. 2004)

“We noticed a bear sleeping on the common lawn and wondered what was going on, until we discovered that there were a lot of beer cans lying around.” From Baker Lake Resort, near Seattle. The black bear was found passed out on the campgrounds after guzzling three dozen cans of beer. (Newsweek, Aug. 30, 2004 pp 15)

A bear apparently entered a West Vancouver home through an open sliding glass door, broke a ceramic food container and started eating. (unidentified publication, June 20, 2006)

In Benton, Tennessee, a mother tried to fend off a bear with rocks and sticks, but the bear attacked her, dragging her yards off the trail at Cherokee National Forest. The potentially crazed bear killed the woman’s six year old and bit her two-year-old son in the head, puncturing his skill. Officials suspect a disease, tumor or parasite may have made the bear aggressive. (unidentified publication, April 15-17, 2006)

And the final story: a one-year-old boxer chased a black bear away from three children playing badminton in their back yard on busy Rt. 30 (in Ligonier, PA). Major continued to chase the bear in spite of the fact it bit him in the face twice. Major didn’t return home for several days, but when he did he was greeted with joy. (this event occurred very near my home) (Tribune-Review July 14, 2005)

You never know when or where a bear will show up. The best way to defend oneself from bear attacks, whether in the city or camping in the woods, is to know what to do, to be prepared.

Visit the Beanery Online Literary Magazine (link to bear confrontations to be added)  for information on preventing bears from approaching your territory and to learn ways to fend them off if they confront you
Thinking back on my Connellsville experience, I only have one regret. I should have returned home, popped up oodles of popcorn and blown up dozens of balloons to sell to add to the festivity of the adventure and also making for me a profit.

Photo illustrations—click on: and

To read information on what to do when confronted by a bear, click on:  (to be posted)

To receive a sample copy of the Beanery Writers Newsletter, E-mail with the words “NEWSLETTER SAMPLE” typed in the subject line. The Newsletter will give directions for subscribing to the monthly newsletter.


  1. An interesting link:
    Brown Bears in Sweden – the shy giant of the wilderness

    Comment by carolyncholland — May 23, 2008 @ 2:10 am | Reply

  2. Check out the photos at this site:

    Comment by carolyncholland — May 30, 2008 @ 4:08 pm | Reply

  3. Check out this site: Good photos. Carolyn

    Comment by carolyncholland — August 3, 2008 @ 8:19 pm | Reply

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