Bear & Dog Safety Revealed
Inside the Outdoors, June 19, 2009

Said to be the largest group ever, over 150 children of members of the Derry Rod and Gun Club took part in Youth Field Day recently not only learning how to partake in various activities in the great outdoors, but also learning about the various aspects of nature as well.

Highlighting the day was the introduction of two black bears by Pennsylvania Game Commission Wildlife Conservation Supervisor Joe Stefko and his team of interns.

Both bears were put to sleep in their traps before introduced to the public. Chemicals used were the same veterinarians inoculate into family pets which do not hurt the animals. The bears were then carefully hauled out on blanket by the team of four and laid to rest for everyone to see. This is when Intern P.J.Sleber took the stage, so to speak.

A graduate student of St. Vincent College working on his second masters in Curriculum Instruction proceeded to reveal a host of facts concerning this four-legged resident.

Sleber, who got his first masters degree in Environmental Education, began by telling onlookers that black bear live in the wild and can hurt people, but do not want to. “If you were to come upon a bear,” he pointed out, “do not run from it.” He then proceeded to tell his audience that this animal can run up to 35 miles per hour. “That is faster than any person in the world ever. You cannot outrun a bear. In addition, they can also swim and climb trees faster than any human in the world,” he said. “The best thing to do is wave your hands and clap and yell – Hey bear, I am a person. That should scare them away.” He added, “Bears know we don’t belong in the woods. We look funny, we sound funny, and after waving our hands and clapping they’ll want to run away.” He added, “No one ever in the history of this state has ever been killed by a black bear.”

Then he revealed some very interesting facts. “People attacked by female bears have gotten in between the babies and the mothers and tried to scare the female bears. That is not a smart thing to do. Mama bears are going to do what mama bears try to do, protect their babies,” he said.

When the subject of bears hibernating in the winter surfaced, Sleber revealed some interesting facts. “Bears do sort of hibernate, but they don’t hibernate. Actually bears do go to sleep, but if it is warm outside, they will wake up and go outside and look for food.” “During the winter,” he continued, “they will not eat, not drink or go to the bathroom. When it wakes up, it feels perfectly all right and is ready to do.”

Now get this. I bet you didn’t know that females have their cubs while asleep. They usually have three or more with a maximum of six. When the babies are born, they are the size of a pop can. The baby will side next to the mother which is curled as she sleeps.

These were just a few of the many “bear” facts he brought to the attention of those in attendance. There were numerous others interesting tidbits that were very educational, including the fact that bears don’t get arthritis. Wouldn’t some of us love to be a bear?

Also capturing the interest of the youth was a dog disciplinary presentation by Derry’s Sonja and D. Cravener and Becky and Joel Russell of Rochester, PA. In it, Russell pointed out, “When a dog is chasing you, don’t run. Become a turtle. Get down on the ground, lock your fingers and put them behind your neck. Cover your ears and your neck. Tighten your arms over your ears. “The only thing that it is going to get is your butt,” she said. “They are not going to get your hand or your fingers.” She emphasized. “Remember, it will not hurt you if you get down and become a turtle.”

Russell also instructed the Club members and their kids, “When a dog approaches you to sniff you, don’t hold out your fingers as some people do. You may get them bitten. Instead make a fist. That is much safer.” she concluded.

- Paul J. Volkmann
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