Bear sightings in Philadelphia, Bucks, and Montgomery Counties over the last few days have given residents ... paws.
Though they shouldn’t have come as a complete surprise.
“This is the time of the year when we get a lot of bear calls,” said Game Warden Dustin Stoner of the Pennsylvania Game Commission.
In the latest sighting, Philadelphia police received a 911 call about a “loose bear” near Calumet Street and Heritage Drive in East Falls shortly after 11 a.m. Wednesday. The Game Commission, which did not immediately respond to a request for comment, was on the scene, according to police.
SEPTA was notified that the bear was seen “on or around the train track area near the East Falls station," said Andrew Busch, spokesperson for the transit agency. There was no impact on service.
The recent sighting ignited an immediate response on Twitter. Police urged residents to “please help the authorities return Yogi” while another user said the commotion was creating “pandemonium.”
“You’d think a serial killer escaped Death Row based on the fact that they are 3 helicopters in that part of the city right now,” said one Twitter user.
Some expressed concern — though, the Game Commission notes that bear attacks “are extremely rare.”
Others, however, just needed to share the interesting incident.
Springfield Township, Montgomery County, Police Chief Michael Pitkow said his department received “quite a few” calls as a black bear, which looked to weigh between 100 and 150 pounds, traveled into Oreland on Monday afternoon, where it was last seen along the 600 block of Paper Mill Road. The sighting prompted the Springfield School District to have a brief lockdown, superintendent Nancy Hacker said.
“That was an interesting afternoon,” Pitkow said of the search for the animal.
The bear wasn’t caught, and it reappeared in Wyndmoor near New Street and Mermaid Lane, Springfield police said late Tuesday, urging any residents who saw the animal to contact them.
Over the weekend, police in Warrington, Bucks County, said authorities had “received several reports” of a black bear — which could be the same bear in the neighboring county.
“It’s hard to say with 100 percent certainty, but they believe that is it," Stoner said.
These sightings could be among the first of the season, joining the chorus of bears normally seen at this time of year — such as the one caught near the Somerton Springs Swim Club in Feasterville in June 2017, or the bear that took a dip in a Bethlehem, Pa., pool last June.
Sightings are “not unusual," but are not an everyday occurrence either, Stoner said.
The Game Commission usually gets four to six legitimate bear calls a year in the region, he said, and they tend to trend around this time of year.
Bears usually mate between early June and mid-July, according to the commission, but this is also the time of year when young bears begin to explore on their own after their mothers push them away to resume breeding cycles.
“Sometimes that leads them to urban, populated areas," Stoner said.
As summer progresses, the bears tend to find their way into less populated areas, he said.
The agency offers a handful of suggestions should you come face to face with one of the wild animals, including to alert the bear that you’re around. You don’t want to surprise the animal.
“Just be cautious," Stoner said. "Don’t approach the bear, don’t try to startle the bear or chase the bear.”
If you find yourself too close, the commission’s recommendation is to stay calm and back away slowly.
“While moving away, avoid sudden movements, and talk to help the bear keep track of your retreat. Don’t turn and run or attempt to climb a tree,” the commission says.
If the bear comes toward you, try to intimidate it by waving your arms and backing away — even use a stick or a backpack. Is the bear clacking its jaw or swaying its head? Those are warning signs the animal could be ready to charge. While attacks are rare, the commission recommends you fight back.
“Bears have been driven away when people have fought back with rocks, sticks, binoculars and even their bare hands,” according to the commission.