PITTSBURGH (TNS) — A black bear that attacked young siblings in suburban Luzerne County Monday may have been killed in a traffic incident Wednesday a mile from where the mauling occurred.
The Pennsylvania Game Commission was attempting to confirm it was the same bear.
The children, who are 5 years and 14 months old, were attacked while playing in their family’s driveway. They were treated for non-life threatening bites and scratches and released from a Wilkes-Barre hospital Tuesday.
Local police and the Game Commission withheld the children’s names to protect the family’s privacy. Few details were available about the attack.
”This is an unfortunate incident and I’m relieved to hear their injuries aren’t severe,” said Byron Burhans, game commission executive director.
The road-killed animal’s DNA was sent for analysis Wednesday as the game commission continued to monitor bear traps.
The attack occurred about 100 miles north of Philadelphia in the Mountain Top region of central Luzerne County. The family home is in Wright Township, a 13.3-square-mile suburb of about 6,000 people 10 miles south of Wilkes-Barre.
The county is a checkerboard of forests and small farming communities. A mixed landscape of mountains, rolling plains and valley farmland, Luzerne County has a thriving black bear community. In 2022, hunters harvested 126 bears, up from 111 in 2021.
Pennsylvania is home to 15,000-16,000 black bears, and thousands of human-bear encounters occur every year. Few involve physical contact, said game commission bear biologist Emily Carrollo.
”With [nearly 13 million] people and all those bears in Pennsylvania, there have been two bear attacks in the state since 2018. Since colonial times, there has never been a fatal bear attack in Pennsylvania,” she said.
That’s because black bears don’t eat people, she said, preferring berries, agricultural vegetables and discarded food in unsealed garbage cans.
In the spring, said Ms. Carrollo, female black bears preparing for impregnation in June and July chase the previous year’s males out of the den. With no territory, the young bears roam aimlessly trying to find a place to mark as their own.
Like teens with no adult guidance, they get into trouble that bears with more experience would avoid. Nighttime dumpster raids, theft of outdoor bird and pet food and surprise contacts with people are common.
The game commission is tasked with managing wildlife, but also with managing public safety concerns regarding wild animals.
Its policy is to capture and euthanize bears that have attacked humans. If it’s proven that the road-killed bear is not the bruin that hurt the children, Ms. Carrollo said the agency will trap and dispatch the culprit.
”The family has been really wonderful to work with,” she said. “They completely understand everything we’re doing.”