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Bear sightings prompt sign on U.S. 340

May 23, 2010|By RICHARD F. BELISLE

HARPERS FERRY, W.VA. -- This bear didn't go over the mountain, but it did try to cross U.S. 340 several times.

That explains the big lighted sign on U.S. 340 near Bakerton Road that warns drivers to "Use Caution ... Bear Crossing."

Bear-crossing signs are common in places like Yellowstone National Park, but this one, flashing outside Harpers Ferry, is an attention grabber.

It's supposed to be, said Ken White, Jefferson County law enforcement officer for the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources.

The sign was put up Saturday after reports of a black bear being seen in the vicinity poking its head out on the edge of the road, White said.

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"We were concerned that it would jump out into the road and get hit," he said.

A driver might get out of the car thinking he or she hit a dog and end up confronting a wounded, dangerous bear, he said. The welfare of the bear is a concern, "but it's more of a public safety issue," he said.

People are urged to be watchful while driving through the area -- hence the sign.

The bear, thought to be a juvenile weighing between 100 and 150 pounds, has been sighted several times by rangers from Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, White said.

White said his office has received photos of the bear via e-mail.

Department of Highways workers put up the sign as a precaution, White said.

"It's no more than that, just a precaution," he said.

He said residents should not leave garbage uncovered or leave pet food out where a bear can get to it. If people are near a bear, they should make a lot of noise to let the animal know where they are.

White said six or seven bears have been spotted in the Jefferson County area in past months.

One was recently sighted in Shepherdstown, W.Va., he said.

There also have been reports of bear sightings in Washington County, White said.

"When they start fanning out, it's easy for them to cross the Potomac River into West Virginia," he said.

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