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July 5, 2014

Local bear sightings unusual, but not alarming

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — Niagara County has had a few unusual guests passing through this summer.

Over a dozen black bear sightings have been reported across the county this year, in areas including Newfane, Hartland, Gasport and Pendleton.

Michael Platt of Newfane said he spotted a black bear in his Lockport-Olcott Road yard in mid-June, snacking on the contents of his garbage can.

Platt suspects the bear, which he described as young and weighing about 150 to 200 pounds, is the culprit that also pulled down and broke several bird feeders in his yard.

A black bear was spotted in Pendleton in late May on its namesake, Bear Ridge Road, and a Gasport man reported spotting a bear in Gasport north of route 104.

The multiple sightings are a unique trend, but not an alarming one, according to bear biologist Tim Spierto of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

“There have been a few sightings here and there over the years, but not to the density we've seen this past year,” Spierto said. “It's hard to tell whether people are spotting the same bear multiple times, or if they're different bears.”

Black bears are typically found in New York's southern tier and rarely make their way into the Niagara region.

“We have an expansion of our population and range this year,” Spierto noted.

According to the DEC, New York State is home to about 6,000 to 8,000 black bears. Over half of them live in the Adirondack region, 30 to 35 percent in the Catskill region, and about 10 to 15 percent in the central-western portion of the state.

Early summer is an especially active time for the bears. Mothers typically are driving off their adolescent offspring and it's the middle of breeding season.

“It's not unusual for male bears to travel 20 miles in a day looking for females, and that could easily put them in Niagara County or Orleans County,” Spierto said.

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