Wednesday, April 16, 2014 9:06 AM
Published on: Thursday, June 27, 2013
By Peter Rouleau
Gaithersburg residents were startled last week by the appearance of a young black bear in the city.
The bear was seen walking on public roads and entering several yards. No injuries or damage resulted from the bear’s visit, and there have been no confirmed sightings since June 20, but there are concerns about what the bear’s appearance portends for the future.
“Much like the way the deer population has exploded in MoCo, this seems to be another example of wild animal populations being forced to look for a habitat in the suburbs,” said Gaithersburg resident Ken Kemp. “It will certainly present challenges for county residents and their pets if this is a growing trend. Having hit a deer a few years ago, I can only imagine what it must be like to hit a full grown black bear.”
Ken D’Loughy, central region manager for the Maryland Department of Nautral Resources’ Wildlife and Heritage Service, said the bear most likely migrated from Western Maryland, looking for new sources of food and shelter. Permanent bear populations are known to exist in Garrett, Allegany, Frederick and Washington Counties.
“As that population expands, we may see eastward movement more frequently,” D’Loughy said.
He added that his agency has yet to discover a female bear with cubs, which would indicate a permanent bear presence, in Montgomery County.
“As a general rule of thumb, if you see a bear in your yard, stay away from it, don’t approach it and it will move on,” D’Loughy said. He urged residents to remove food attractants, such as birdfeeders and barbecue grills, from their yards in the event of a nearby bear sighting.
Harry Spiker, leader of the Wildlife and Heritage Service’s Black Bear Project, said it is quite possible that Montgomery County could have a permanent bear population in years to come. He attributed the population’s growth in Western Maryland to conservation and reforestation efforts and the implementation of regulated hunting seasons since the 1950s.
Spiker echoed D’Loughy’s advice regarding bear sightings but said the danger posed by an increased bear presence would be negligible.
“As far as I know, we’ve never had a person attacked by a bear in Maryland,” Spiker said. “They are much more tolerant of us than people tend to be of them.”