Greensburg, Pa. – Pennsyl-vania has a bear season, one for black
bears in particular. That’s just what Chuck Williams shot on
opening day of the 2006 season, too.
You’d never know it, though, not to judge by the animal Williams
has mounted in his Uniontown, Fayette County, home.
There, Williams has a full-body mount of a 186-pound,
22-month-old female bear. He shot it on his uncle’s farm, known as
the Ryan Farm, in Fayette County, on the border of Forbes State
Forest’s Quebec Run Wild Area.
But the bear isn’t black. It’s cinnamon colored, complete with
pink nose and lips. That makes it among the rarest of the rare when
it comes to Keystone State black bears.
It’s not unheard of for a black bear to be something other than
black. Cinnamon phase black bears – along with brown and blonde
versions – are actually fairly common in the western United States,
said Mark Ternent, the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s bear
biologist. But they’re exceedingly rare here.
In Pennsylvania, fewer than 1 percent of the state’s roughly
15,000 black bears are brown or cinnamon, he said. Those that do
exist are most commonly found in the northcentral counties – not
coincidentally where bear populations are traditionally highest
– but they’re unusual even there.
“You’re talking very few showing up, probably less than half a
dozen in all the years I can remember,” said Tony Ross, the
commission’s northcentral region biologist.
Now 43, Williams has been hunting since he was 12. He just got
into bear hunting in 2004, though, and prior to last year, he’d
never even taken a shot at a bear.
He wasn’t overly optimistic about his chances last year,
Faced with the prospect of having to drive a trailer truck to
Columbus the night of opening day, he planned to hunt just a few
hours in the morning, then go home to sleep. In that frame of mind,
he took a stool, thermos of coffee and a Field & Stream
magazine into the woods to pass the time.
Fifteen minutes after first shooting light, though, Williams
looked up to see something walking out of a thicket in front of
“At first I thought it was a golden retriever,” Williams said.
“My cousin has one. I thought, what’s Lucky doing out here? Then I
thought, that’s too big for Lucky.”
When Williams finally realized what he was looking at, he almost
let the bear go. It walked 20 yards or so before he pulled the
“It was just such a pretty animal,” he said. “But I knew that if
it went over to the next thicket, where I knew there were nine or
10 other guys, somebody would shoot it anyway. So I reached over
and picked up my rifle and that was it.”
His wife Janet will tell you he was a little excited,
“I thought I was getting an obscene phone call at 7:30 in the
morning. He was saying, ‘I got one, I got one’ and breathing so
heavy that I could hardly understand him,” she said.
His bear certainly turned more than a few heads.
“I’ve mounted cinnamon phase bears before, but never anything
like that from Pennsylvania,” said Bob Hutchinson, of Hutch’s
Taxidermy in Bridgeport, who mounted the bear. “As soon as I saw
it, I was like, wow. It was really pretty, with a lot of blonde
Mel Schake, information and education supervisor in the
commission’s southwest region office, can recall having a few
cinnamon phase black bears in Indiana County when he first arrived
there in 1982, but he’s encountered just a handful since.
“They’re really pretty and really neat to see, but you just
don’t run into them that often,” he said.
Williams planned to go bear hunting again this year. He went in
knowing, though, that it would take something special to top his
cinnamon bear. But that’s OK, he said.
“I’ll probably hunt the same way this year. And if I see a bear,
that’s a great thing, And if I don’t, I’ll just enjoy being in the
woods,” he said.