When it is OK to wake a sleeping bear
A wildlife conservation officer in Luzerne County recently told me about a bear he was trying to trap that had been hibernating under a building in the middle of a neighborhood. It seems the bruin had burrowed under the porch, wedging itself nice and tight back in the narrow confines.
The bear was discovered by residents who spotted it emerging from underneath the porch several times this winter — when the weather turned mild, to roam the neighborhood in search of a mid-season snack.
Ultimately, the conservation officer managed to trap the bear with a barrel trap baited with donuts and hauled him off to be released in Sullivan County. He said the bruin was a male that weighed an estimated 550 pounds.
The conservation whole episode got me thinking — what would I do if I discovered a bear was hibernating under my house?
My first thought was … nothing. Hibernation is a physically-taxing time for bruins, and to add to its stress by removing it from its winter resting spot is something I'd rather not see.
But then again, how comfortable would I be knowing a bruin was sleeping beneath my home? Would I worry about my children? Pets?
In the end, the worry would win out. If I lived alone that would be a different story. In that case the hibernating bruin could rest easy and I would go about my business simply keeping a watchful eye out for the bear.
But with others to consider, it's just too risky.
Bears hibernating under houses is an uncommon phenomenon, especially in northeastern Pennsylvania. Such instances are reported at least once a year, mainly from the Poconos.
And in almost every case, the bear is removed and relocated to a remote area where, hopefully, it can quickly find a new spot to resume its slumber.
It's just a fact of life today, considering we have plenty of areas where people and bears overlap. It's bound to happen.
While I might not like the idea of disturbing a hibernating bear, when public safety is involved — no matter how slight the risk may be, it's something that I understand has to be done.