Backyard Bears: An Expert Opinion

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The Newswatch 16 bear family made headline after headline after headline and has been mentioned in news reports from California to England.

The mama bear and her three cubs appeared in the WNEP backyard during a newscast Monday night, surprising many, but not Wildlife Conservation Officer Mark Rutkowski of the Pennsylvania Game Commission.

"Montage Mountain has got quite a few bears and Channel 16 happens to be fortunate enough to be located in a great spot we're in to see a lot of wildlife," said Rutkowski.

He said he knows this mama bear and her not-so-little cubs. He has been tracking them in the Montage Mountain area for years.

Rutkowski said when folks do encounter one of the 15,000 to 20,000 black bears in the state, they should avoid eye contact and walk away.

"At no time try to approach the bear and feed it. They want to make their presence known, make noise," said Rutkowski.

He is hopeful the now-famous bears will make people stop and think about wildlife more carefully.

Experts are using collars to track bears in a two-year urban bear study in Pennsylvania, a study from which Rutkowski said they have already learned a lot. He said learning more about bears and how they live is actually giving scientists information about how to help people too.

"It provides information to people that are on kidney dialysis, liver problems, so there's a lot a lot of things that can be studies from bears," said Rutkowski.

Some people may ask why wildlife experts don't just remove bears from areas where people may live or work. According to Rutskowski, studies show that the bears will simply come back. They are territorial.

Rutskowski also said it's important to remember that this is their natural habitat, especially spots like Montage Mountain, and despite the boom in construction in this area over the years, this is their home too.