Montgomery County residents should bear in mind that they may continue to see black bears in the area through July because now is their mating season—and the time when juveniles leave their mothers, according to a black bear expert.
“It’s this time of year when juveniles are dispersing, so they’re leaving the area. They’re trying to find an area to live the rest of their adult life,” said Jonathan Trudeau, black bear and co-deer project leader for the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. “It’s also the breeding season, and there are males looking for females, and there are males pushing other males out of areas.”
The number of bear sightings may seem high, but that could be because a small number of bears is generating a lot of calls, Trudeau said.
“It’s important to note that a single bear can generate a lot of calls and, in general, a lot of sightings because when it gets into a more suburbanized landscape, it’s much more visible,” Trudeau said. “Though there may only be one or a few bears in the area, they’re much more likely to generate a call for sighting than a bear that’s out in Garrett County, where it’s much more forested, and folks are much more accustomed to seeing bears.”
Bears don’t confine themselves to the more forested areas in the western area of the state — because adult males require a lot of space for their habitat. Typically, they need 10-15 square miles of space just for them, Trudeau said.
“They don’t really tolerate sharing very well. Females will share with other females, but males don’t share very well with other males, so males have larger ranges,” Trudeau said.
Trudeau said that bears are trying to find areas that are not occupied by other bears.
Also, Thomas Decker, a wildlife biologist at US Fish and Wildlife Service, said that another reason bears venture out to Montgomery County from western counties is because breeding season is a “competitive time” for adult males.
“They’re getting ready to breed, and they’re trying to stay away from the adult males who don’t tolerate them,” Decker said.
Black bears are generally not a danger to humans, and they are the least dangerous type of bear, compared with grizzly and polar bears, Trudeau said. According to BearWise, a program created to help educate communities on how to coexist with black bears, black bears “rarely become aggressive when encountered.”
“They are very timid animals. The reality is, most of the time if there’s a bear in your area, you’re never going to see it, because it’s going to move off before you even get close enough to see it or hear it,” Trudeau said.
In fact, in a recent Rockville bear sighting, the bear was hiding in a tree.
“Trees are their escape cover,” Decker said.
Also, black bears are not a threat to people’s pets unless they directly threaten the bears, according to Decker.
“They don’t view pets as a food source like coyotes or foxes,” Decker said.
If someone spots a black bear, they should give the bear a clear escape route, according to BearWise. Trudeau said residents should not corner a bear or get between a bear and their cubs.
On its website, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources says that when someone encounters a bear they should stay calm, leave the area and most importantly: “DON’T PANIC.”
Additionally, Trudeau said that people can call the Maryland Department of Natural Resources at any time to report bear sightings or discuss any concerns.
To prevent black bears from coming into their yard, people should secure their garbage, clean the grease off their grill and not leave bird seed or pet food outside. Bears consider all of those as food sources and are attracted to them, Trudeau said.
“We see trash as a waste; black bears see it as a virtual smorgasbord of high-quality food that’s in very concentrated areas and easy for them to get to,” Trudeau said. “The bird feeder that you have for black oil sunflower seeds hanging in the backyard, that’s a little snack that they can get, and your grill that you didn’t clean, that grease trap in the back, that’s just a nice, quick on-the-go snack forum.”
Trudeau’s final piece of advice:
“Just really enjoy the experience,” Trudeau said. “Only about 12% of our residents have ever seen a black bear in the wild with the vast majority of that 12% actually residing in Western Maryland.”
To report a bear sighting, Montgomery County residents can contact their Wildlife Service Office at 410-356-0941 and for bear-related emergencies, they can call 1-410-260-8888. Residents can also call their local police department.