20170604-ts-sp Gateway Outdoors pic

A good example of what NOT to do. Setting out kitchen scraps can, and often will, attract wildlife, including hungry black bears.

Photo by Charlie Burchfield

What do you do when you run into trouble? Today many reach for the telephone or cell phone, push the key pad, and tap on 911 to reach help.

But, that’s not always the case, especially when dealing with animals.

Now we’re not talking the family pets here; it’s the wild variety. From deer walking in front of your vehicle to a skunk making a home under your back porch, we constantly share space with animals, especially the wild ones.

Sure, it’s great seeing wildlife up close and personal. In fact many people scatter food around for wildlife in order to get a closer look.

Artificially feeding is one method used to gain close proximity to wildlife.

Although the practice seems innocent enough, there are a number of problems and unintended consequences that can develop quickly. This is especially true when it comes to black bears.

Black bears are interesting in a number of ways. They are big, powerful, and highly intelligent. Bears can pretty much go wherever they want, simply because they can. Wherever they are observed they make news. Often big news if their travels take them through the center of town or even touching on the edge of the suburbs.

For city and town dwellers reactions can be mixed. For those who reside in the larger cities, reports of a black bear invoke actions that include bringing the kids and pets indoors and locking the doors.

On the other hand, those who live in more rural settings generally accept the sightings as an opportunity to view nature.

Then there are those who for the better part of their lives lived in more populated areas. Then they come to the “wilds” and establish a summer residence or retirement home. Often these same individuals are new to having wildlife experiences that are at times up close and personal.

Wildlife can be fun to observe, that is as long as they don’t cause problems for humans. Yet in some cases, especially when a black bear sow and her family of cubs do get into trouble, there’s generally some type of human interaction that initiated the incident.

Let’s face it, being greeted by a 250-pound black bear at close proximity can prove to be interesting. And every year about this time black bears make the news by being on someone’s back porch or raiding the garbage can. Yet in most cases encounter with black bears can be kept to a minimum.

Simply put, black bears are opportunist. If an easy meal can be found, they’ll take advantage of it. Here the solution can be as easy as keeping the garbage stored inside or store refuse in an out building until pickup. Also keep your barb-e-que grill cleaned up. Bears have a keen sense of smell, and the aroma of grease emulating from your grill can draw in a black bear from a long way off.

In the case of an outside pet, keep their area free of leftover food. Black bears have a liking for leftover dog and cat food. Removal will go a long way in making an easy meal hard to come by.

Once black bears find an easy source of food, they can be tenacious and return time and again. So what can be done if the situation goes beyond your control?

In the case of wildlife in general, call the regional office of the PA Game Commission. In many cases, solutions to a specific problem may be offered over the phone. While in other cases a Wildlife Conservation Officer may have to become involved.

Telephone numbers for the PA Game Commission’s Regional offices are found on page 5 of the current Hunting & Trapping Digest. Northcentral 1-507-398-4744 or by e-mail pgc-ncregiom@pa.gov.

All other regional offices of the PGC can be contacted by phone at the Northwest Regional Office at 814-432-3187.

Keep in mind that intentionally feeding black bears and elk is not permitted.

The artificial feeding of black bears, elk, and all other wildlife for that matter, may enhance wildlife viewing, however it also increases the chances of wildlife spreading disease.

The act also can contribute to long-term habitat destruction, risk of wildlife-vehicle collisions, and habituation to humans.

While artificially feeding deer and turkeys has not been curtailed, there is good reason these two species of wildlife should not be provided with artificial feeding as well.

Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) affects white-tailed deer and is now well documented within the state. Also by congregating wild turkeys, there is the chance to spread a disease called Lymphoproliferative Disease. Both diseases are spread by the congregation of animals.

Another thing to consider is the feeding of wildlife in “closed” communities” which provides a number of challenges.

For example, one resident provides feed and draws in wildlife. Soon the deer that are drawn in take to eating the neighbor’s shrubbery and other ornamental plants.

Then suddenly the animals that were so much enjoyed now suddenly become nuisance animals.

In other cases small animals often create challenges was well. Skunks, raccoons, and groundhogs, just to name a few, can become pests and require removal.

In these cases nuisance control agents permitted by the PA Game Commission can be called in to address the problem.

Keep in mind there is a cost involved here. There are a growing number of individuals providing this type of service. They make a good living taking on the challenges of wildlife pest control.

Living in the country can be interesting, but it takes a little understanding. After all, your home or summer residence is occupying space where wildlife call home.

Realizing that fact often requires some adjustments coupled with a good dose of understanding.

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Charlie Burchfield is an active member and past president of the Pennsylvania Outdoor Writers Association, an active member of the Professional Outdoor Media Association, Outdoor Writers Assoc. of America and the Mason-Dixon Outdoor Writers. Gateway Outdoors e-mail is GWOutdoors@comcast.net

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