Bear draws crowd on lope through town

A sizeable black bear ambled through downtown Berkeley Springs on Saturday afternoon, July 6, and drew lots of attention as it crossed U.S. 522 at the Star Theatre and headed toward Mercer Street.

A black bear was spotted along Congress Street near the Star Theatre on Saturday, July 6. photo by Anne Nelson

Cpl. Sam Smith of the West Virginia State Police responded to multiple 911 calls about the animal shortly after 2 p.m.

He first made contact with the bear right beside the Berkeley Springs fire hall.

Cpl. Smith said his first task was to disperse a crowd of people that was taking photos of the bear in order to avoid an animal attack.

He then followed the bear in his patrol car, moving the animal along with noise and motion into a wooded area at the top of Fairfax Street. Cpl. Smith said it took roughly 20 minutes to get the bear to an area that was safe and away from the public.

“It’s the third call on him already,” Smith said. The bear has been seen near The Country Inn and Mercer Street.

The black bear headed east, crossing U.S. 522 on its way toward Mercer Street.
photos by Anne Nelson

“Either it’s a big mama or a male,” said Smith.

Officers with the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources (DNR) will come to Berkeley Springs to see what they can do to relocate the bear, said Smith.

“They’ll send a team and will set up traps,” he said.

Smith said he’s seen other bears during duty shifts, but usually late in the evenings or in the early morning. It’s possible the high activity in town and smells of food attracted the bear into the open in the mid-afternoon.

“It was an interesting call,” Smith said. He was glad there was no need to use his weapon to intervene between the bear and the public.

Wildlife officials advise that bears are most likely to attack when they feel cornered or surrounded. People should leave plenty of room between themselves and a wild animal.

Open trash containers and bird feeders are a major source of attraction that lead bear into populated areas.