By Andrea Kautz
Recently, the PA Game Commission brought a black bear to Powdermill to release in the nearby state forest. It was a healthy, 300-pound male that was relocated because it was becoming a nuisance on a farm more than 30 miles away. Powdermill staff were grateful to have the opportunity to watch as the game wardens sedated and tagged the animal before release. The bear received two ear tags and a lip tattoo for identification. A small milk tooth was extracted which will be used later to determine his age. An infected claw was treated, but otherwise he appeared to be in good health.
The Game Commission estimates the Pennsylvania bear population to be thriving at around 20,000 individuals. Compared to neighboring states, Pennsylvania black bears breed earlier and have more cubs. Bear populations are managed through seasonal harvesting, although only about 2% of those receiving permits are successful hunting a bear. In 2017, the largest bear taken was a 707-pound male from Monroe County!
Hopefully, this male will find another place to call home, but relocating these animals can be tricky as they have a very good sense of direction and can cover long distances. At this time last year, one radio-collared male walked from Johnstown to Grove City to Pittsburgh, then east along the turnpike and up through the Laurel Highlands and back to Johnstown in about a month. We give special thanks to the game commission for putting so much effort into maintaining a healthy population of bears that can live in harmony with humans and ensuring that Pennsylvania can continue to be a supportive environment for these spectacular beasts.
Andrea Kautz is a Research Entomologist at Carnegie Museum of Natural History’s Powdermill Nature Reserve. Museum employees are encouraged to blog about their unique experiences and knowledge gained from working at the museum.