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Bear killed along I-70

April 30, 1997

By BRENDAN KIRBY

Staff Writer

A 285-pound male black bear was hit by a truck on eastbound Interstate 70 just east of Conococheague Creek early Tuesday, according to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.

The area, just west of Md. 63, is heavily wooded and sparsely populated, Natural Resources Police Officer Ray Harner said. Black bears generally avoid people, he said.

Forest Game Project Manager Steve Bittner was called to the scene at 6:15 a.m. by Maryland State Police and a decision was made to euthanize the injured bear, a DNR release said. The bear was buried at Indian Springs Wildlife Management Area.

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Bittner said there were no vehicles at the scene when he arrived.

Maryland State Police did not have any information on the truck driver, Cpl. K. Scheer said.

The bear's had on two metal ear tags from the Pennsylvania Game Commission, the release said. Bittner said the tags will allow officials to determine when the bear was tagged by Pennsylvania officials.

Bittner said motorists should be alert for bears. He said the bear population is growing.

Bittner said there were at least two bear sightings in Washington County last spring, one on Dual Highway east of Hagerstown and another near Hancock. Harner recalled a bear sighing near Hancock three weeks ago and one two years ago in the Boonsboro area.

Bittner said the bear population has been growing, not just in Washington County but throughout the mid-Atlantic region. He said the population is "expanding its natural range" by adapting to human populations.

Bittner said bears are more prevalent in mountainous Garrett and Allegany counties to the west.

If people see a bear, it is generally a yearling that has left its mother and is searching for a home, Harner said. Males looking for mates also sometimes come into contact with people, he said.

But Harner said black bears - unlike grizzlies, which are not native to the Tri-State area - are not aggressive and generally do not pose a threat to humans. The exception would be if a person came between a bear and her cubs or cornered a bear, he said.

There have been only a few bear attack incidents in Maryland in the past 100 years, Harner said.

Otherwise, bears stick close to streams, rivers and mountain ridges. Thanks to a keen sense of smell, they usually retreat from humans before they are seen, Harner said.

Black bears eat plants and have been known to destroy bee hives, crops and rummage through Dumpsters and trash cans, Harner said.

Harner said bear sightings should immediately be reported to wildlife officials.

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