Schenectady County

City un-‘bear’-able for guest

Albany police found themselves tracking an unlikely suspect Tuesday: a 175-pound male black bear.

Albany police found themselves tracking an unlikely suspect Tuesday: a 175-pound male black bear.

Calls reporting the bear wandering in the vicinity of Mount Hope Drive started coming in during the late morning and continued through the afternoon. But the ursine interloper proved to be elusive, disappearing each time officers cruised by.

“There were several spottings,” police spokesman Steve Smith said Wednesday. “Every time we were called, he was gone by the time we got there.”

That was until the bear was found catching an evening snack at a bird feeder on the 200 block of the neighborhood, which is near the Bethlehem border by Interstate 787. Albany police chased the bear for nearly an hour before it scaled a tall tree near a residence.

State Department of Environmental Conservation officers were able to tranquilize the bear, causing it to plummet nearly 50 feet to the ground. Officers took the unconscious bear to the DEC facility in Rotterdam for evaluation and he was determined to be unscathed by the fall.

“Bears are pretty hearty, and they can usually handle a fall,” said DEC spokesman Rick Georgeson.

The bear was taken to the DEC office in Stamford and then released into the Catskills sometime during the late afternoon. DEC officials aren’t sure where the bear came from or why it wandered into the city.

In general, bears often are attracted to populated areas by the promise of food. Bird seed and suet are favorite treats for bears, which are also known to rummage through trash.

“Once a bear shows up in a neighborhood, they will quickly learn that it’s an easy source of food,” DEC biologist Brian Swift said.

Spring is also a time when the creatures are just waking from hibernation, meaning they are a bit more ravenous than normal. And cities, while not presenting an ideal habitat for bears, do offer relative safety from hunters.

“We always get one or two in the cities each year,” Swift said.

Black bear reports have grown somewhat regular around the Capital Region lately. A black bear was spotted wandering near Mohawk Commons in Niskayuna last summer and another was killed along Interstate 88 in Rotterdam over the winter.

Part of the reason could be the overall increase in the black bear population throughout the state. Hunters killed 1,258 bears in 2011, setting a new record for the take in the southeastern and central-western regions of the state. The take last year was 194 bears more than recorded in 2010 and 106 bears more than the five-year average.

Swift said the bear populations in the Catskills and Allegheny areas have continued to increase, perhaps due to conservative management of the populations in the past. In general, he said, the northeastern states are all seeing a rise in bear populations, which consequently have caused an increase in encounters between them and people.

“They’re thriving all over the Northeast,” he said.

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