Young bear struck, killed outside Fawn Grove
Life is no picnic for adolescent male bears.
Driven off by their mothers, alone for the first time and on the run from older male bears defending established territories, young bucks have a basket full of challenges to overcome — including fast-moving vehicles.
On Thursday morning, one such bear was unable to avoid that particular danger, according to Wildlife Conservation Officer Shawn Musser of the Pennsylvania Game Commission.
Sometime between 5 and 5:30 a.m., the black bear was fatally struck on Graceton Road (Route 851), just east of Fawn Grove in Fawn Township, Musser said.
It was between 125 and 150 pounds and was likely about a year-and-a-half old, the wildlife officer said. It's the third bear fatally struck in York County in the past year or so.
Didn't suffer: It appears the bear suffered a broken neck and died without suffering, Musser said; it bled from its ears, but otherwise there were no apparent physical injuries.
"It could have run into the side of a vehicle," Musser said. "Somebody might not have known what he hit."
The driver didn't stop, which is not a crime, the officer said. Other drivers, however, did stop to get a look at the bear carcass.
"It caused a pretty big traffic issue," Musser said. "When I pulled up there were about 10 vehicles stopped there."
The bear's remains did not go to waste, he said.
"We just had it skinned by a taxidermist, and they're going to have the hide tanned for us," Musser said. "We'll use it for school programs and ... (other) educational programs."
The meat — which Musser said is tasty if cooked properly — will be distributed to needy families, he said.
On the move: The dead bear, like other young males his age, became a reluctant wanderer earlier this year, according to the wildlife officer.
"They're born in the winter and stay one full winter with the sow," he said. "The spring is usually when they get kicked out by the sow."
Their mothers drive them off to protect them, because the older established males, called boars, will kill younger rivals who invade their territories, Musser said.
"Very rarely will you see a female struck (by a vehicle)," he said. Sows don't run off their female offspring because they're not in danger, he said.
"Young bears are still on the move, so keep your eye out for them," Musser said, adding humans aren't in danger as long as they don't approach the adolescents.
"You don't have to worry about them. They're not going to attack you," he said. "Their food usually consists of nuts, berries, corn ... and especially bird food. Bird feeders are always a target. And, of course, trash."
If you see such a bear, simply leave it alone and keep your distance and it will move on, Musser advised.
"Don't run, don't scream," he said. "And if you'd call us, we'd like to know about it."
Second sighting: Musser said he was notified Thursday of another bear spotted on Main Street in Shrewsbury. It was seen after the bear was struck on Graceton Road, meaning it's a different animal.
Because the bear sightings were so close together in time and geography, the two bears are likely male siblings from the same litter, Musser said.
Reach the state Game Commission's dispatch center at (814) 643-1831, or simply call 911.
— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at email@example.com.