PENNSYLVANIA (WHTM) — The continent of North America is home to many species of wildlife, but when it comes to bears, the area only has three species.

But only one of the three can be found in Pennsylvania: Ursus americanus, or the American black bear.

Black Bear Facts

This species of bear is the only one that can be found in the state of Pennsylvania. As of 2015, a population estimate showed that approximately 20,000 bears live in the state. This means that many of us living here may come in contact with one of these animals.

According to the Pennsylvania Game Commission, black bears are very intelligent and curious creatures. Black bears may not even be black, as their name implies. They could be a cinnamon color and some have a white V on their chest.

Adult bears can weigh 200 pounds or more. Some can even weigh up to 600 pounds, according to the game commission.

When it comes to their feeding habits, the Game Commission states that bears can feed up to 20 hours a day and consume up to 20,000 calories when hibernation is near.

Bear and Human Safety

But what if you live where bears live? The game commission has tips so you and the bears can peacefully coexist.

Do not attempt to feed a bear, as it is against the law in the state of Pennsylvania. Always make sure that you secure food sources. This is due to the bears often being curious and rummaging through garbage cans for food. Once a bear finds an easy food source, it will keep coming back. The commission says that with every return trip, the bear may become less afraid of humans.

A persistent bear can cause property damage and can increase the risk of human injury.

If you see a bear on your property, the game commission says that there are two options.

  • Make loud noises or shout at the bear from a distance. This may alert the bear of your presence and it will run away.
  • Leave the bear alone and clean up the mess after the bear leaves. You should also investigate what made the bear come to your property in the first place.

But what if you are in the woods either camping or hiking and you come across a bear?

The Game Commission states that in most cases, bears will detect you first and leave the area long before you even see it. However, there are rare instances where a bear may still be there when you encounter it. If this happens, do the following:

  • Make some noise to alert the bear of your presence, giving it time and space for it to turn and leave. Do not get excited about seeing a bear and do not get close to it.
  • If it is a close encounter, back away slowly while facing the animal. This is so you can see how the bear is reacting. The commission says that wild bears rarely attack people, and so slowly backing away diffuses the situation and will keep the bear calm.
  • Stay calm during the encounter. Do not make any sudden movements, and do not run as that may make the bear want to chase you.

The Game Commission says that some bears may stand upright or move closer to you. This is not a sign of aggression, and once the bear recognizes you, it will usually leave. If the bear continues to get closer, face the bear, wave your arms, and shout as you back away slowly.

If a black bear is threatened, they may give warning signs. Some include clacking their jaws together or swaying their head. This is a clue that it is time to leave the area. Some bears have been known to charge a few feet when threatened. If this occurs, wave your arms and shout at the bear.

As fall approaches and bears start to get ready to hibernate for the winter, be on the lookout for any bears that may appear, and make sure all food sources are secure.