- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 7, 2002

Foraging bears are expected to soon make their seasonal return to populated areas, like the Washington suburbs, regional wildlife experts say.
Summertime bear sightings have become commonplace in some suburbs because of an increase in the black bear population in the mid-Atlantic region and habitats provided by parks, small farms and woodlands within 100 miles of the District.
Bears already were spotted twice in neighborhoods near Manassas in late May.
Last month, a bear killed a tethered goat near Interstate 70 west of Hagerstown, said Robert A. Beyer, associate director of game management for Maryland's Department of Natural Resources (DNR).
"You have to remember this is a regional population of bears," Mr. Beyer said. "Crossing the Potomac River is not a very hard thing for a black bear, especially with the drought."
"We fully expect to get one in Montgomery County. They traditionally come across into Montgomery County from Northern Virginia," Mr. Beyer said.
Bears generally prefer wild food such as berries and an occasional fawn, but they are "extremely omnivorous," Mr. Beyer said.
Cornfields, livestock pens and beehives have become popular eating places for black bears, to the dismay of farmers. Bears' opportunistic appetites even extend to carrion, such as roadkill.
Last year, 41 bears in Maryland became roadkill themselves after being hit by cars or trucks. Vehicles have struck four bears in Western Maryland in the past few weeks.
About six weeks ago, a car hit a bear near an elementary school in Haymarket, Va. about 45 miles west of the District.
Wildlife experts said they believe that a bear spotted wandering outside the emergency room of Shady Grove Adventist Hospital in Rockville in June 2001 remained in the heart of Montgomery County for more than a month.
Mr. Beyer said his staff last year began tracking a bear that was seen in Montgomery. In three days, the bear trekked more than 40 miles to Ellicott City in Howard County.
Most bears seen in late spring and summer are young males who are striking out on their own and seeking mates while trying to establish a personal territory, wildlife experts said.
State game officers in the region usually do not intervene when a bear is reported unless they believe the animal poses an imminent risk to people or livestock.
Suburban Maryland lawmakers angered their Western Maryland colleagues this year by defeating proposals that would have made it easier for people to kill black bears, which Western Maryland residents contend have become a dangerous nuisance.
Paul Peditto, director of the DNR Wildlife and Heritage Services, said he promised Delegate George Edwards, Garrett County Republican, that suburbanites who complain about bears would be instructed to make their yards less attractive to the beasts and to avoid and tolerate them.
If the bears pose a persistent problem, wildlife management officials will move them to nearby woods, Mr. Peditto said.
It is illegal to kill a bear in Maryland unless necessary to defend a person's life or property.
The same standard prohibits killing bears in Virginia, except in counties that have a limited bear-hunting season.


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