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A few evenings ago around dinner time, I happened to look out my dining room window to see a black bear at the foot of my driveway.

By the time I ran for my camera, he was gone, but the stopped traffic in front of my house told me he was making his way down my road.

Until then, I hadn’t actually seen a bear near my house in Glenburn Township since one appeared in front of my fourth-grade daughter while she waited for the bus to Waverly Elementary School nine years ago.

However, I have heard a number of neighborhood bear stories in recent years. This summer alone, one of my neighbors told me that a bear took a stroll on her deck and others lamented that bears had crushed their bird feeders. And a friend in South Abington Township complained that a bear actually broke through a new, heavy-duty lock on his trash can.

The bears are here.

We’re here.

So we might as well learn how to co-exist.

This is a good time to remind everyone that The Pennsylvania Game Commission (PGC) has good advice for all of us who share living space with these animals.

The main thing the commission stresses is don’t feed the bears. In fact, the PGC website states, “Feeding bears is against the law. It is also against the law to put out any feed, for any wildlife, that is causing bears to congregate or habituate to an area.”

The PGC warns us that the black bears living in Northeast Pennsylvania will eat human food, garbage, bird feed, pet foods, fruits from trees or gardens and livestock feed. They also raid cornfields and beehives.

“Once bears find easily accessible food sources, whether on a farm or in a housing development, they will keep coming back as long as food is available. With every returning trip they slowly lose their fear of people, which can lead to bolder attempts at accessing food, and as time spent near people increases, so does the risk of being struck by a vehicle or becoming a more serious nuisance.”

So, it’s a no-brainer that the best way of keeping the bears away from your home is to keep food away from them. The PGC recommends putting trash out the morning it is collected and cleaning garbage cans regularly with hot water and chlorine bleach.

Clean your grills and dispose of grill grease properly (don’t dump it in your back yard). Bring all bird feeders and pet food pans in at night and keep your pets safely inside during the night, says the commission.

If you do encounter a bear on your property, you have two options, according to the PGC.

“The first is to make loud noises or shout at the bear from a distance – like you’d react to a dog getting into your trash,” the commission says.

The second option? Leave the bear alone.

“Clean up the bear’s mess after it leaves. Follow up by making sure you eliminate whatever attracted the bear in the first place. You may need to talk to your neighbors, as well,” says the PGC.

Further information is available at pgc.pa.gov.

Teri Lyon is a mom, grandmom and freelance writer who lives in Glenburn Township with her cat who doesn’t think she is afraid of bears.