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Bear in gives preacher a scare

October 04, 2002|by RICHARD BELISLE

waynesboro@herald-mail.com

SOUTH MOUNTAIN, Pa. - The Rev. John Cook had a close encounter of the bear kind in his chicken coop Thursday morning.

The 71-year-old evangelist went out to his henhouse to feed his eight laying hens Wednesday morning and found a dead chicken, six eggs missing and a wooden wall between the henhouse and barn smashed to smithereens. He thought someone had broken in during the night.

When he fed the chickens Thursday morning, he found nothing amiss. A short while later he was on his porch saying his morning prayers when he heard a commotion in the henhouse.

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He checked and saw a large black bear inside along with two dead chickens.

"I buy eight chickens every year. I only have three left now," he said.

He approached the bear and yelled at it. It left the coop and headed into the barn.

"He jumped over the tractor," Cook said. "I was five or six feet from him then and he had no other way out."

Cook said he started to back up as the bear started coming toward him. "He stood his ground. He never backed off," he said.

Cook yelled for his wife, Ruth, to come out to see the bear then he ran into the house for his shotgun. It was loaded with birdshot, he said.

"I fired three shots near him and he ran off," Cook said. "The shots scared him. I knew it was against the law to shoot a bear."

Cook's six-acre homestead at 5209 Old Forge Road, is surrounded by Michaux State Forest.

"I've been living here for 43 years and this is the first bear my wife and I ever saw," he said.

Mike Kusko, chief forester at Michaux State Forest, thinks "a handful" of black bears have taken up residence in the 88,000-acre forest.

"Ten years ago we'd see an occasional bear passing through on the South Mountain Ridge. They were probably young males on the move from Maryland and West Virginia," he said.

More recently forestry employees and others have spotted cubs and females with cubs. The observations have been confirmed, he said.

"The consensus is that we now have a few resident bears in the forest," Kusko said.

He said habitat and food is plentiful in the forest for bears.

Black bears have been seen much more frequently in neighboring Fulton County, state officials there said.

One resident in the Harrisonville area in northwest Fulton County reported seeing 14 bears in his area this year.

The state Game Commission has set up a bear checking station in Fulton County. Hunters checked in 57 bears at the station last year, including seven that were killed in Fulton County.

Five other bears have been killed by motorists in Fulton County so far this year, officials said.

Bears that create a nuisance, like the one in John Cook's chicken house, are often trapped by state wildlife conservation officers and moved to less-populated areas, officials said.

Kevin Mountz, the state Game Commission's wildlife officer in southern Franklin County, could not be reached Thursday.

Cook said state workers left a trap near the chicken coop Thursday afternoon.

They baited it with honey, meat and donuts, he said.

"I hope they catch it," he said. "It's a dangerous animal."

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