Afield and Afloat – Bruins on the move

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Jack Randolph

When a bear gives birth to cubs she keeps them around through the summer and the following winter. As the next summer approaches she starts preparing for a new litter.

One of her preparations involves sending her male cubs out into the world. The female cubs usually stick close by, but the boys will be boys and they must go forth into the world and seek their fortune.


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For a black bear, seeking one’s fortune, involves finding and establishing a new territory. This is easier said than done. One of the youngster’s problems is older male bears will not tolerate another male in their territory. Probably a more difficult problem is finding a piece of forest unoccupied by humans. There comes a point where a bear population can over populate its habitat. This is what’s happening up in New Jersey but ill-informed anti-hunting advocates are making effective bear management all but impossible up there.

When the young male bear leaves his momma for the first time he is ill-equipped to cope with the world. A very good example of the confusion that exists in a young bear’s mind is the story last week of the 15-pound tabby cat that treed a 125-pound black bear, not once, but twice. This happened up in Jersey.

Sunday we had a young male bear show up in a sub-division in Chesapeake. The confused and terrified animal climbed high into a tree, about 90 feet, where he spent the day. Game Department wildlife people stood guard over the animal . After dark, the bear climbed down from his lofty perch and apparently returned to Dismal Swamp.

People often react poorly to a visiting bear. A few years ago a Marine sergeant shot one that was raiding his garbage can.

This apparently is a capital crime. Fortunately the shooter was charged.

In Colonial Heights some years ago a posse formed when a bear was sighted near White Bank. That sighting was never confirmed, but a few years later there was big excitement when another bear came waltzing through town.

Fortunately, through the efforts of Dr. Ney and a Game Department rep, enough tranquilizer was administered to convince the bear to go to sleep in the woods behind the present Home Depot. The next day biologists from the Game Department captured the critter and carried him to George Washington National Forest.

If you encounter a bear in your neighborhood call the Game Department and leave the animal alone. In prior years in some jurisdictions law enforcement folks considered the bears to be a threat and shot them. This is seldom, if ever, justified. If a citizen shoots a bear on his property he would most likely be charged with illegally killing a bear. If he wounds the bear the desperate animal can become dangerous. Best leave the critter alone.

Jack Randolph is a syndicated outdoors columnist and can be reached at