NIPPENOSE TOWNSHIP -- Stop feeding the bears -- that's what Pennsylvania Game Commission officers are telling people to do in Lycoming County.
Mange, a sometimes fatal skin infection, is spreading among the bear population in central Pennsylvania.
It would be extremely difficult for the Game Commission officers to completely get rid of mange, but what they can do is help prevent the spread of the skin infection.
When the Pennsylvania Game Commission found a bear two years ago in Lycoming County, it was starving to death left with just a tuft of hair on its back.
"It was first a couple isolate cases and over the years it's gotten a lot more severe," said Harold Cole, Pennsylvania Game Commission.
This black bear and others just like it in Lycoming County have died from a severe case of mange caused by mites.
"And what it is, is a small little insect that burrows underneath the skin of the animal," Cole explained.
Cole tries to trap bears suffering from the itchy, scabby skin infection.
Officer Cole lures the bears in with food and then treats the ones that can be saved.
But he warns others to stop feeding the bears; drawing several animals to one place could help spread the skin infection.
"The mite is spread through two different ways. The one is contact and common area."
"We can't have bird feeders and we have to take the garbage in at night. We can't put it in the dumpster and he gets in the dumpster," said Pine Creek Township resident Julie Moodler.
She doesn't feed the bear but Moodler said there is a bear with mange who visits her campsite near Avis in Clinton County.
"My brother was there, too, and he said it was mange because I had never seen it before," Moodler said.
Now, some of the bears the Game Commission officers trap are just too far gone with mange. They are unable to help them. This year alone in Lycoming and Clinton Counties they've had to put down six to eight bears because of mange.
"Eliminate the food sources, whether it's the pile of corn, the bird feeders, the dumpsters, the compost piles. All that stuff just needs to stop," advised Officer Cole.
If you see a bear you believe may have mange, do not try to approach it, call the Game Commission for help.