SOMERSET, Pa. – In a remote section of a forest here in the quiet, rural southwestern Pennsylvania county known by many for its role in the crash of a hijacked airliner on Sept. 11, 2001, is where they found her among fallen tree limbs and brush that had formed what looked like a large bird’s nest.
“She picked a great spot,” said Brian Witherite, noting that often the spot turns out to be difficult to reach and on a rocky ledge.
But here she was -- a black bear in hibernation, said Witherite, a state Game Commission warden looking for electronically “tagged” bears in hibernation. His team -- and others like it across the state – currently are checking the health status of bears and, in some cases, of their young cubs.
The mother bear found here was tranquilized by the Game Commission team so blood could be drawn to check for the presence of any disease, he said. In addition, the team weighed the bear's three two-month-old cubs (three to five pounds each), examined their teeth and gave them identification ear tags before all were returned asleep to the hibernation den that appeared like a nest.
The Game Commission crew estimated the mother bear, who had slightly worn teeth indicating an older age, weighed slightly less than 200 pounds. The bears’ diagnosis: all are healthy, according to Dr. Andrew Di Salvo, Game Commission veterinarian here. He also said the cubs should be up walking by next month.
The Game Commission review here also included samples be taken, said Emily Carrollo, the Game Commission’s black bear manager.
“We’re visiting this girl making sure her collar fits OK, and getting all our cubs tagged,” she said, adding the state team will return next winter to again check the status of the bears. “We also collected blood, hair and tooth samples.”
The mother bear and her three cubs next month will awake from hibernation, according to Witherite, who said the cubs will remain with their mother for a full year before breaking away on their own.
The overall population of bears in Pennsylvania is good, he said, because expanded bear hunting seasons have kept the population from a detrimental level.
Summing up the health of the bears and the work done by the Game Commission team at the site, Witherite said, “It was a good day.”
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