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Mall offers bear necessities

May 07, 2010|By HEATHER KEELS

HAGERSTOWN -- Security staff chased a black bear off the Valley Mall parking lot Thursday night after it was spotted pacing outside J.C. Penney, mall marketing director Michele Wills said Friday.

Customers and employees leaving the mall as it closed spotted the approximately 200-pound bear at about 9 p.m., Wills said.

"It was going up and down through the parking lot right around J.C. Penney," she said.

A guard in a security vehicle tracked the bear with a spotlight until it ran across Massey Boulevard into a wooded area near the Dollar Tree store, Wills said.

No one was injured and no property damage was reported, she said.

Security staff warned employees at the Regal Valley Mall movie theater about the bear and checked for its return throughout the night, Wills said.

"Everybody's going to be keeping an eye out for it," she said.

The Washington County Sheriff's Department was called to the scene, and deputies notified the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, Wills said.

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A Natural Resources Police officer went to the mall, but found no sign of the bear, said Jim Mullan, regional wildlife manager for DNR.

Mullan said the bear was probably a yearling, or last year's cub.

"It's not uncommon this time of year to observe yearling bears moving about," Mullan said. "The breeding season begins in June and July for bears, so the sows, or female bears, will chase off their older cubs in order that they can go back into the breeding cycle."

The yearlings then go looking to establish their own territories, he said.

Mullan said black bears have extended their range into Washington and Frederick counties within the past several years from more heavily bear-populated Garrett and Allegany counties.

He advised anyone who sees a black bear not to approach it, but to slowly back away, keeping an eye on the bear.

"It's generally going to be more frightened of you than you are of it," he said.

Those who are concerned about bears on their property should take down bird feeders, wait until collection day to put their trash outside and avoid leaving pet food outside, Mullan said.

"Bears are generally just looking for an easy meal, and if they don't find any food when they come around human surroundings, they won't become a problem or habituate to that area," he said.

Bear sightings may be reported to DNR's Indian Springs Work Center at 301-842-2702, Mullan said.

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