Bear sightings in Delaware rare, most likely from surrounding states
Recent sightings of black bears in northern Delaware have sparked our curiosity: what brings it – or them – here?
The black bear – or bears – spotted in the Pike Creek and Newark areas are most likely young males that have wandered into the First State from Pennsylvania, Maryland or New Jersey, says DNREC’s Wildlife Administrator Robert Hossler.
These areas have growing black bear populations, and male black bears are known to wander around this time of year since it’s mating season. He says mating season for black bears is from around Memorial Day to July, with June and July being peak breeding times.
Surrounding states have habitats more conducive to black bears, with berries – a critical part of the black bear diet – abundant in Pennsylvania and Maryland. Hossler says Delaware’s corn crops could be enticing to black bears, but would still leave them wanting more.
“We just have a very fragmented agricultural, suburban landscape," Hossler said. "We don’t have any mountainous or dense forested regions compared to our surrounding states. Even New Jersey has sections – in the Northern part – that are more remote.”
Since black bears need forested cover, the bear or bears will most likely wander back out of Delaware soon. But Hossler says they can also be transported back to a more natural habitat. Should it find a reliable food source and stick around a certain area for more than a day, it can be trapped in a life trap or tranquilized if trapped in a tree.
North American Bear Center biologist Dr. Lynn Rogers has studied black bears for 49 years, and has been involved in relocating them.
“If it’s a disbursing male that’s coming through and you give it a lift just a short distance to another area, you’re not likely to see it again because it didn’t live there anyway. It’s just a newcomer to a new area on its way somewhere," Rogers said.
He says people are getting more comfortable with them, since the chances of getting attacked by a black bear is so low.
"Just as people get used to bears, they don’t have a problem with them so much and bear numbers can expand," Rogers said.
But Hossler says that’s not likely to happen in Delaware. Even if we were trying to keep bears in the First State - they’d probably move on. Only one black bear has been known to live in the state since the 1700s.
Hossler says that if you see a bear, don’t run away: but make your presence known by making loud noises and backing away slowly. The chances of attacks are extremely slim. He also advises to keep grills and birdseed in the garage.