Press-Republican

October 12, 2012

Bear cub remains in City of Plattsburgh

Police say to leave it alone in hopes it will return to wild

By SUZANNE MOORE, ASHLEIGH LIVINGSTON and MIRANDA ORSO
Press-Republican

---- — PLATTSBURGH — The bear cub spotted exploring the City of Plattsburgh on Thursday was no cause for concern and should be left alone, police say.

The hope was it would make tracks to the wild on its own.

Officers followed the small black bear around the city Thursday, working alongside the State Department of Environmental Conservation.

The sub-adult cub was spotted in numerous places, including the SUNY Plattsburgh campus and outside the Naked Turtle restaurant downtown.

It had been seen paddling along in the Saranac River, as well.

It’s a pretty good swimmer, said City Police Lt. Scott Beebie.

He said the bear was not rabid, but just young, confused and very skittish.

“The DEC has advised us to leave it alone,” he said.

And he asked that all residents to do the same.

He said the animal, which may or may not have been injured, was not a threat to residents. And people were asked to take care not to scare the bear.

“The worst thing that could happen is that it could tree itself or get backed into a corner,” Beebie said.

Unless the animal were to attack a domestic pet or otherwise stray from the normal sort of behavior for its species, police would take no action.

Authorities were unsure how old the cub is or what brought it to the city.

“If it’s a yearling, it’s very possible its mother kicked it out,” Beebie said.

There’s also the unfortunate possibility that the cub’s mother is injured or dead, he added.

‘ADORABLE’

SUNY Plattsburgh University Police took its first call on the bear at 9:48 a.m.

“Some of the college staff saw it,” Lt. Frank Salvamoser said.

It was described as weighing about 60 pounds, he reported. 

Ashley Tyree, 21, was in class in Sibley Hall Thursday morning.

“(The bear) ran by the windows and door that leads outside to Rugar Street,” she said. “We thought it was a dog, at first.”

Bear cub v. a class in education-curriculum design? The bear won, paws down.

Students and teacher, too, went outside to get a closer look at the unexpected distraction.

“It was adorable,” Tyree said.

Not far away at Plattsburgh High School, Principal Glenn Herlock glanced out the window in the main office and spotted the bear running by at about 10:15 a.m.

The cub, he said, was 3 or 4 feet from the building and moving parallel to George Angell Drive toward the Saranac River. 

“It just ran right down (along) the side of the building,” he said. 

Herlock declared a lock-in at the High School, asking students, faculty and staff not to leave the building without permission from the main office and an escort. 

Parents were also notified of the situation via email. 

CAMPUS ALERT

Sally Girard, director of SUNY Plattsburgh Child Care in Sibley Hall, said police told her the children shouldn’t go outside to play.

And she said University Police had cars patrolling the area.

An alert sent out campus-wide said the bear was also seen by a resident student near the high-rise residence halls on Rugar Street.

“The bear wandered over to the area around the service buildings (on Sanborn Extension), where it climbed a fence and headed into the neighborhood just west of campus,” Director of Public Relations and Publications Michelle Ouellette said in the message.

The email alert, sent out to all students, faculties and staff, also warned anyone who came across the cub to “remember it is a wild animal and should be treated as such.”

COVERED GROUND

For awhile, it was thought the cub was just passing through.

Mid morning, the animal was making its way in the direction of Rugar Woods, said Chris Hilchey, dispatcher for City Police.

Once there, police thought, the cub would return to its own environment.

But the bear had other ideas. Throughout the day, it popped up at different points in the city. As of Thursday evening, police had cordoned off the area where it had last been spotted, in hopes of protecting it from too much attention from the curious.

DEC spokesman David Winchell was not available on Thursday, and no one else was authorized to speak to the media about what, if anything, would be done about the bear.

It appeared the cub could really cover ground. A person saw a young bear on Wednesday morning in the woods near the main campus of Champlain Valley Educational Services, located on the Military Turnpike in the Town of Plattsburgh.

Alerted to the sighting, the school conducted a lock-in of its students, and CVES officials went looking for the bear, said Jeff Sisson, CVES health, safety and risk management specialist. 

He said there was no sign of the cub, so the lock-in was lifted. 

DON’T FEED THE BEAR

Rosemary Maglienti, a licensed wildlife rehabilitator who lives in Plattsburgh, said bears do move about quite a lot.

“It’s likely it’s just a wandering young one that became detached (from its mother),” she said, noting cubs don’t leave the nest until about 18 months of age. 

Because this bear was minding its own business, not approaching humans, Maglienti didn’t think it would bother anyone unless it were cornered.

But the mother could be somewhere close by, she said, and perhaps even another cub.

“They do come in twos,” she said.

Maglienti’s advice was for people to make sure they didn’t leave anything out that might attract the bear, including birdseed.

“Do not feed it, check your garbage-can lids,” she said. “It’s less temptation for (bears) to come close.”

Of all mammals, she said, bears that have been habituated — taught that people provide food — are the most difficult to discourage. And their size makes them a danger to humans, of course.

And, she added, “if bears become used to people, then the bear’s life is at risk, too.”

Recently, a moose that drew crowds of observers in Jay was shot and killed by authorities because it had serious injuries and also to protect the public.

Police on Thursday said they would not want to see a similar situation arise for Plattsburgh’s bear cub.

Email Suzanne Moore: smoore@pressrepublican.com

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A BEAR BEFORE

In August 1997, a 250-pound adult black bear turned up on Sanborn Avenue in the City of Plattsburgh.

After frightening early morning paper boy Aaron Waite just by its very existence on the city street, the bear climbed a tree. As crowds watched, wildlife researcher Ray Adkins shot it with tranquilizer darts, and it fell 20 feet to the ground.

It did not appear the animal was injuried, and it turned out Adkins had tagged that very bear a year earlier in Saranac, and that was where it was taken to be released.

"An adult male will have a 50-, 60-, 70-mile home range," Adkins said at the time.