In a photo posted to the Neighbors by Ring app Monday, a large bear reaches its nose toward a bird feeder in Owen Brown, a village in Columbia.
“Bring in all trash cans and bird feeders,” the post warns. “He will keep coming back to the same area looking for food.”
The photo is one of several bear sightings reported in the Columbia area over the past few days, and according to Brian Eyler, associate director of the Wildlife and Heritage Service at the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, we should pro-bear-ly get used to them.
Since Saturday, the Howard County Police Department has gotten several calls about bear sightings in Columbia — as well as some in Marriottsville. The most recent call was Monday afternoon, about a bear spotted around Lake Elkhorn, which is in Owen Brown, a police spokesperson said.
While it’s not clear if people are seeing the same bear or different bears, there are a few things that are likely.
It’s a black bear, a spokesperson for the Maryland Department of Natural Resources said, as black bears are the only kind of bear east of the Rocky Mountains.
This bear, or bears, is likely around 1 1/2 years old — or the equivalent of a teenager in human years — and is also probably male, Eyler said.
The teenager has likely wandered into Howard County in search of a new home — from somewhere in the western part of Maryland where there is a healthy bear population, Eyler said. Bears breed every two years in June and July, and give birth to new cubs in December. To prepare for new cubs, a mother’s current cubs have to move on.
“They’re just trying to find a new place to set up a home range in, and sometimes it takes them into our more urban counties where we typically don’t see bears,” Eyler said.
And, he said, bear sightings may become more common in the future, because the bear population in western Maryland is expanding. Places like Frederick, Carroll, Howard and Montgomery counties may see an uptick in sightings.
In fact, this year, Howard County is not the only place bears have been spotted. A video posted to Facebook on Sunday night shows a bear roaming around Hampstead very close to a road.
At the beginning of May, a large black bear was seen multiple times in West Rockville, and because it had established a pattern of returning to the same house, DNR caught it and moved it to the northwest part of Montgomery County.
And at the end of April, a bear was seen in Kensington.
For the most part, Eyler said, there’s no need to be alarmed about black bears. They aren’t aggressive, he said, and are “actually fairly docile.”
“They don’t want to interact physically with us, anymore than we want to interact physically with them, I can assure you that,” Eyler said.
If you come into contact with one, Eyler said, just back away slowly and give the bear an escape route — and “99 times out of 100″ the bear will leave, Eyler said.
If people hear about a bear nearby, they should also make sure to get rid of any “food attractants,” such as trash, bird feeders or grills with leftover food on them, said Eyler, because bears are hungry and when they come into a backyard, it’s almost always for food.
Above all, he said “we just need to get used to this, to a certain degree, and recognize that they’re not a threat, and it’s actually a pretty cool happening when that occurs.”