2012-05-31 / Local & State

Road Work May Be To Blame For Bear Increase

By HOWARD FRANK

POCONO RECORD

STROUDSBURG, Pa. (AP) – What began as a rubbish run for Angela Learn turned into a close encounter with nature and served as a reminder that progress has its price.

“ I walked out to the Dumpster, and when I got there, the little cub lifted its head up,’’ said Learn of Scotrun. “ I just slowly backed away and let it be.’’

Learn was taking garbage to the metal trash container behind Providence Community Service in Minisink Hills when she and the cub startled each other.

There’s been an increase in bear sightings this year in the Marshalls Creek and Delaware Water Gap areas, according to Bill Williams, Pennsylvania Game Commission information and education supervisor.

Some experts believe the spike in sightings could be the result of ground disturbance from construction on the Marshalls Creek Bypass project.

About 256 acres – an area large enough to swallow 248 football fields – was excavated during construction, according to Monroe County Conservation District Resource Conservationist Carl Meyer.

That affected not just the natural habitat of many animals but possibly a straightline travel corridor used on their search for food.

Those routes are defined by consecutive parcels of undeveloped land.

“Bears have a territory, and they have certain routes they take to get places,’’ said Eric Uhler of Pocono Wildlife Rehabilitation Center.

“If you look through the woods, you can see the trails they have taken,’’ he added. “All animals are basically creatures of habit. They put work into what they do to get where they are going. Once they’ve established a route or trail, they will more than likely reuse it. That’s one of the ways hunters track deer.’’

Bear sightings are so common that Providence Community Service posted a sign on its door warning clients to be watchful.

The road construction is more likely to have affected female bears and cubs, according to Roger Spotts, an environmental education coordinator with the Monroe County Conservation District.

“A female bear that may have cubs is only going to have a 3-to-5-square-mile territory,’’ Spotts said. “But a male black bear could have one up to 20 square miles, so a little road project won’t disrupt his habitat.’’

It won’t amount to an invasion of bears, however.

“Bears are one of the most adaptable animals in our backyards, and they have very large territories,’’ he said. “Even a project as large as the Marshalls Creek Bypass would disrupt a few bears’ habitat, but it wouldn’t cause dozens of bears to run amok, because there aren’t that many bears in a given territory. And they will find other habitats easily. They’ll make adjustments.’’

Spotts said about 18,000 black bears roam Pennsylvania, according to the latest survey.

Niki Cummings with Remax Crossroads is a neighbor of Providence Community Service.

Cummings recalls that last year a mother bear and three cubs would come and feed off of the Dumpsters, although this year she’s seen just one so far.

Neighboring Landmark CafÈ chef Sammy Pensyl said the bear that visits this year is much tidier than the family of bears that frequented the area last year.

“The bears last year always made a mess in the Dumpster,’’ Pensyl said. “The one this year gets a bite to eat and is out.’’

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