A local black bear went on an adventure at a new place on Thursday: middle school.
The unexpected visitor stopped at 8:54 p.m. Thursday night at Floyd C. Fretz Middle School, forcing his way into the school and taking a look around before returning to the outdoors.
Only the custodians were there at that time of night, said Bradford Superintendent Katharine Pude.
“The bear charged the door at full speed and managed to hit the window frame with enough force to pop out the frame and window,” Pude said.
As far as why the bear wanted in, she explained they are assuming it saw its reflection.
“The bear is seen on video walking through the hallway and looking in doors, when it suddenly appears to see its reflection again in the office windows, does an abrupt turn and runs right back out the way he came in!” she said.
All-in-all, the adventure ended with relatively little disruption to the building and no one hurt.
“There was absolutely no damage done to the building and we haven’t seen him since,” she said. “The window has been reinstalled and checked by a certified glass installer to ensure no human being can attempt the same feat.”
Pude took the break-in with good humor.
“Fretz Middle School is such a great place to learn and grow that even the bears are knocking down the doors to get in!” she said.
For anyone who sees a bear, remain calm, advises Travis Lau, communications director at the Pennsylvania Game Commission.
Lau shared advice and information with The Era about the mammal.
“Let the bear know you are there. You do not want to surprise a bear with your presence, but if you whistle, wave, or talk softly to get its attention, it often will flee,” he said. “If the bear does not go away, it might let you know it doesn’t want you there by bluffing a charge at you or popping its jaws. Generally, it will allow you to slowly back out after giving you these signals.”
And while one’s first thought might be to flee, think again.
“Never run from a bear,” Lau explained. “This can be perceived as a threat.”
Don’t climb a tree to escape a bear, as tree-climbing can actually provoke it. According to Lau, bears often send cubs up trees if they hear someone. In this case, they would see a person climbing the tree as a threat to cubs.
“If other options do not work, shouting at the bear might drive it off,” he added.
Regarding the population of black bears — the only kind of bear that lives in Pennsylvania — the number “has held steady for several years at about 20,000 bears statewide,” said Lau.
According to Lau, a bear will be more inclined to return to a place if they get a good meal there.
“Much of what bears do is driven by food,” he said. “If they are getting easy meals somewhere, whether it be because garbage, birdfeeders or other items consistently are available to them, or they are being intentionally fed — which is unlawful — they often will return to the same spots until those food sources are cleaned up and removed.”
In fact, harmony between the bear population and the human population depends on people keeping their properties uninviting to bears.
“The primary reason it’s illegal to feed bears is that when bears are fed, they begin to lose some of their natural fear of people and associate people with food,” Lau explained. “Such an outcome is problematic for people and the bear, because such bears tend to get in more trouble.”
When people are new to living near bears, they lack knowledge about the animal.
“This can lead to unwarranted fear of bears, or at the other extreme, a lack of respect for the potential danger bears can cause,” Lau said.
While people should exercise caution when they meet a bear, “people should understand that most bears do not cause problems, especially if people take steps to make sure their properties and neighborhoods aren’t providing bears easy meals,” said Lau.