Hellam Twp. family watches and films as black bear snacks on birdseed

Liz Evans Scolforo
York Dispatch

An uninvited guest at the Hellam Township home of the Holland family grudgingly wandered off after police arrived and aimed their spotlights at him — but not before cadging a quick meal.

Karen Holland, her two children and her husband, Jason Henry, got to watch on Thursday, April 4, as an apparently hungry black bear snatched their bird feeder and ate the contents.

"I felt excited and thrilled," as well as a little bit scared, 7-year-old Chaz Holland told The York Dispatch.

"It took our bird feeder down — and that thing's metal," Chaz said, adding he doesn't want the bear to return.

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"We bought air horns and whistles," he said.

Eleven-year-old sister Josie Holland said she thinks the bear showed up because it was hungry.

The bear visited the Holland family's home near Tower Road on another recent evening as well, pushing around the family's outdoor grill, she said.

"I was very nervi-cited. That's nervous and excited in one word," Josie said on Friday, April 5. "I thought it was a really cool experience and a once-in-a-lifetime thing."

The family heard noises outside their home about 9:30 or 9:45 p.m. Thursday.

Jumped onto porch: "We looked out the window and the bear was there," Josie reported. "I've never seen a bear in the wild before. ... It actually jumped on our porch to get the bird feeder."

Karen Holland said she also watched from inside as the bear jumped onto their porch railing, pulled down the feeder and lay down on the driveway with it.

The family called Hellam Township Police, who responded and pointed flashlights and a spotlight at it. The bear appeared underwhelmed and was in no hurry to leave, according to the family.

"He did not care," Karen Holland said.

Josie said the police did get the bear to run over to a tree. In the kids' video, the bear can be seen hiding behind the tree.

Officers stayed until the bear wandered off, according to Josie.

Josie said she had a great story to tell in school on Friday, but she hopes she doesn't have a sequel to share anytime soon.

"I would rather he just get his food and go," she said, adding she wouldn't want to see anyone get hurt for accidentally scaring the bear.

Reported sightings 'rare': Hellam Township Police Lt. Drew Heistand said the department has received a phone call or two and a couple of Facebook messages from neighbors in the northwest portion of the township who recently spotted a bear.

This black bear has been seen on properties in the northwest portion of Hellam Twp. in recent days, according to police, who advise people to merely leave the bear alone. Here, the bear is seen at the home of Karen Holland and her children, Josie and Chaz. She said her children were excited, but a little scared.
Photos and video courtesy of Josie and Chaz Holland

"Leave it alone, obviously. Don't approach it," he said. "The Game Commission is aware of it."

Heistand said his department is called about bear sightings perhaps once a year, maybe less often.

"I think it's pretty neat," he said. "I would assume the bear is more scared of us than we are of it."

The bear facts: Heistand advised residents who aren't interested in hosting hungry bears to take in birdseed and pets' food bowls and to make sure trash is in secured cans or dumpsters.

Throwing out leftovers for smaller animals will also bring bears, he warned.

Attacks on humans by black bears in this state are quite rare, according to the Pennsylvania Game Commission.

Living with Black Bears

The commission urges people not to try to feed bears or get them acclimated to humans.

"A fed bear is a dead bear," according to the commission's website.

— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at levans@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.