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Two black bear cubs are suckling, and their mother looks back at Ternent, alert but relaxed.
It is early March, and these bears won't come out of hibernation for another six weeks.
The wildlife biologist shoots a tranquilizer
dart into the mother's rump, but the dart goes
into fat, not muscle, slowing absorption into her blood.
Ternent waits 20 minutes, but she is still awake,
so he shoots a second dart.
This one does the trick —
she's completely out of it.
Ternent then goes to work, dragging
the bears from their den.
By the end of March, he will have visited
As caretaker of the state's 15,000 black bears,
Bears are not a problem in more
remote areas of the state. But here in
the increasingly populous Pocono Mountains, complaints
about nuisance bears are rising — especially among
recent arrivals from New York, New Jersey and Philadelphia,
who tend to have little experience with the animals.
"They see a bear in their backyard
Pennsylvania has had perhaps 20 bear attacks
over the past 30 years, none of them
fatal or even serious.
But black bears have killed people in other
states, and can inflict significant damage
on crops and livestock.
Black bear encounters are rising in
It is such a topic of concern that
"I think most states are becoming more
aggressive in managing these populations,
and it's a direct result of human-wildlife encounters,''
says Steve Williams, president of the Wildlife
Management Institute and former director of the U.S.
Fish and Wildlife Service.
He calls the Poconos and northern New Jersey,
In New Jersey, rising complaints about
bears prompted officials in 2003 to allow
black-bear hunting for the first time in
more than three decades. But last year's
hunt was canceled amid protests from
anti-hunting groups, and New Jersey's top
environmental official said non-lethal ways of dealing
with bears need to be explored.
In Pennsylvania, hunting has long been
Now Ternent, the bear biologist, is
aiming to come up with a bear population
objective for various parts of the state,
taking into account factors such as human population
density, forest cover and the availability of food.
Among other things, he wants
Black bears sleep deeply when they
The den Ternent visited in early
March is surrounded by houses, and
you could walk past it and never know
it was there. Only the
sow's radio collar, put on her during
a previous visit, betrays her location:
a cavern formed by two large rocks.
After the bear is sedated,
For the cubs, born the first
Their fur is remarkably soft, and
they smell clean and fresh — much better
than your typical family dog. They struggle
mightily, but at only 6 pounds they are
no match for the humans, who
are careful to avoid the cubs' long,
Ternent and his team take
She weighs 197 pounds, about 30 percent
less than when she entered the den in November.
But she has a soft, pillowy feel,
her bones aren't sticking out anywhere and
her fur is in good condition.
She is in fine health.
It is the sow's first litter, and her
"They are a charismatic species,
no doubt about it, he says.