Black Bears have been residents of New York state since well before any European explorer ever set foot on the Long Island shore or traveled here along the east coast from the Carolinas. They are still quite numerous in the state, with their population generally being located in the mountainous, deeply forested areas of the Adirondacks, Catskills and the Allegheny Park region in the southwestern area of the state. For years, there have been isolated sightings and encounters with the state’s second largest mammal outside of where one would normally expect to see them and this year, many of those encounters have not ended well for the bears. Just halfway through the year, there have already been three reports in The Buffalo News, detailing vehicle/bear collisions in widely scattered areas of western New York. Two of the encounters happened out in the country where wildlife still has plenty of places to call home – East Aurora and Bennington. The third however, occurred in an area that even the most seasoned of wildlife experts would never have imagined the encounter to take place – the Niagara section of the New York state thruway on the outskirts of downtown Buffalo. Fortunately, the other reported bear sightings in western New York this year, in Clarence, Lockport and Hartland, did not end with any physical confrontation between cars and critters.
As the number of bear sightings increase, I wonder how much longer it will be before we read about folks in Amherst or Williamsville going out to refill their bird feeders and instead of seeing Finches, Cardinals or Chickadees at the feeder, they find a two hundred pound bear cleaning out their sunflower seeds! Perhaps the residents of Lancaster, Depew and Orchard Park better start looking for “bear alert” whistles to attach to their front bumpers and grills to alert the bulky bruins of a fast approaching vehicle. And perhaps even the city dwellers of Buffalo better start devising ways of chaining shut their garbage totes to prevent a real life Pooh from snacking on their trash! I personally would relish the sight of a bear in my back yard. As long as he was there, I’m quite sure the normal vermin intruders I see would go into hiding. I know that I would have nothing to fear from the bear as I have read for years that they are more afraid of us than we are of them. However, I don’t think I would scientifically try to prove or disprove that theory if a chance meeting ever does occur.
Soon enough, the fall season will descend on western New York, bringing with it the ripening of backyard gardens, the stockpiling of firewood and triggering the hibernation instincts of the state’s bear population. I just hope that I and no one I know, does not open their garage door some morning to find that one of these overstuffed Teddies has decided to hunker down among the lawn furniture, rolled up garden hoses and spare tires for his long winter nap. If that ever were to happen, with my luck, the furry beast would probably use my snow thrower as a pillow! At least then, I would be able to provide an answer to the age old question – how do wake a sleeping bear. Very carefully and from a distance!
For more information and to read all the archived reports of bear sightings and vehicular accidents involving bears in western New York, go to the Buffalo News online and search for local stories about bear incidents.