BUCKHANNON – One or more black bears were spotted in the area of Randolph and Camden streets Monday afternoon as law enforcement and the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources worked to trap and relocate the animals.
According to law enforcement, the last time the bear was seen it was out of town, heading east near the Old Elkins Road.
The sightings – first announced through the Upshur County Office of Emergency Management’s alert system – came after a woman was mauled by a bear at her home in Tennerton early Friday morning and a bear was spotted by a West Virginia Wesleyan College administrator on campus last week.
At 1:09 p.m. Monday, the Upshur County Department of Homeland Security and OEM messaging system sent a notification advising all residents in the Randolph Street area near Wesleyan to head indoors because two bears had been seen in the vicinity.
By 2:05 p.m., however, a second message was sent out saying, “the shelter in place because of [the] bear sighting has been canceled.”
Late Monday afternoon, Buckhannon police chief Matt Gregory said the BPD, Upshur County Sheriff’s Department and county animal control officer, Dustin Hollen, were working in conjunction with the DNR to trap and relocate the bear or bears.
Gregory said Lt. Doug Loudin spotted a bear on Railroad Avenue heading toward the railroad tracks, while Chief Deputy Mike Kelley with the Upshur County Sheriff’s Department saw a bear near Micrologic on the Old Elkins Road.
“It was seen at River Place Apartments, and there were also reports of one on Fayette Street and Camden Avenue,” Gregory said. “All law enforcement agencies are working together with the DNR and the county’s animal control officer.”
As to whether the sightings involved the same black bear or multiple black bears, Gregory said he couldn’t say.
“I’m not sure if it was the same one,” Gregory said. “It very well could have been. Looking at a map, that’s all the same area.”
“Every time it was seen, it was running,” the police chief added. “Bears are fast, so people that saw it, only saw it for a split second. The last sighting to my knowledge was on Route 151 continuing out of town, and I know that there were at least two DNR units from Upshur [working on locating the bear or bears] and a wildlife biologist was coming from Elkins to assist.”
Gregory said residents should know the BPD has officers patrolling a slew of areas throughout town.
“We have a number of officers patrolling and to confirm sightings,” he said. “In and of itself, it’s no reason to be alarmed, but don’t let your guard down and use caution. If you see a bear, don’t approach it. Don’t interfere with it in any way – especially if it’s got cubs, but we don’t know if it does or not.”
Gregory said no one has seen more than a single bear at a time.
“Sightings have never put more than one bear at the same time together,” he explained. “It’s always been an individual bear. If you look at the pictures on Facebook, the pictures and the sightings have been a smaller bear. I think it’s about 90-100 pounds based on what I heard on the scanner, and that’s a small bear.”
Gregory said the spate of sightings in the past week or so are likely due to bears searching for – and possibly finding – a food source or sources.
“Most generally, it’s because they find a food source – they’re getting into trash or there’s food laid out, whether it be bird seed or food in the trash,” he said, “and they’re persistent because once they find one, they keep coming back.”
City information coordinator and grant writer Callie Cronin Sams sent out an advisory Monday afternoon offering residents safety tips.
“This afternoon, a bear or bears wandered into the Camden Avenue area,” Sams wrote. “They have now moved on and are no longer in the city limits, but are highly mobile and residents should remain cautious. The Buckhannon Police Department and West Virginia Division of Natural Resources are working together to trap and remove the bears to a more remote location.”
In addition to following the instructions relayed through the emergency alert system, Sams’s press release included the following safety tips:
-At night, bring in any food typically left out for pets or birds during the day, which will reduce the likelihood of attracting bears.
-When walking in secluded areas that have a high likelihood of bear presence, make loud noises that will alert bears of your presence, which gives them time to leave the area.
-Keep dogs on a leash when you go for a walk. Bears are more likely to be stressed if they encounter a dog than a human.
-If you do encounter a bear, just let it be, make yourself appear large by raising your arms, and back away slowly. Most likely they are going to run to get away from you.
-If it makes you feel more comfortable, carry pepper or bear spray with you for general safety.
Sams also advised concerned residents to check out this website for more bear-related safety tips.
To sign up for the Upshur County OEM’s alert system, text ‘UpshurCoWVAlerts’ to 69310 or click here.