Editor's Note: The new cover photo and photo above was taken earlier this evening, at nearly 7 p.m., in the Burnside Funeral parking lot, by Sheila Alvarez. More tomorrow on Connect-Bridgeport.
When Bridgeport’s Mary Lewis was heading down U.S. Route 50 East past Twin Oaks at around 11 a.m. today, she was taking a trip and taking in scenery she’s seen plenty of times. This time, however, something caught her eye to the right.
“I looked over and I told my husband ‘look at that.’ We pulled over here and got close enough to get a picture,” said Lewis.
What Lewis saw and what she was able to get a bit of a grainy image on her cell phone of was a bear. And her sighting wasn’t the first of the day in Bridgeport. According to Sgt. Robert G. “Bob” Waybright, a police officer with the law enforcement section for the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources, it was the second call today in the city.
“There was a call earlier near the Burnside Funeral Home and the carwash area. There was a report of a bear in a backyard eating apples,” said Waybright. “They’re looking for food and right now you have berries ripe and apples on trees so this can happen.”
Although not certain, Waybright said it’s very likely the bear witnessed by Lewis in the vacant lot area just before the Speedway along U.S. Route 50 was very possibly the same bear. He said the distance traveled between reports is not unusual.
“They have a much larger area that they will roam as opposed to say deer,” said Waybright.
By the time Waybright arrived on the scene, the bear has roamed into the wooded hillside along U.S. Route 50’s eastbound lane. Lewis said the bear stayed for about a minute after they pulled off the road and managed to take the cell phone photo.
According to reports from two individuals as well as a Bridgeport Police officer, Waybright said all believe it’s roughly a 200 pound bear. Although not fully mature, it’s a sizable wild animal that could do harm if it feels threated.
“That’s not a cub by any means. Usually, when they’re fully matured they’ll get to be about 250 pounds,” Waybright said. “We have witnessed them between 300 and 400 pounds though.”
Waybright’s best hope for the situation is for the bear to return deep into the woods. In order to make that happen, he said residents can do plenty of things to make that more likely.
“First, it’s very important that if anyone sees a bear to simply stay away from it. The second thing is to not feed them or attempt to feed them because it’s not only dangerous, it’s illegal,” he said.
To stop the bears from coming on property, Waybright suggested that residents to keep trash inside until pickup mornings. He also suggested that any pet food that’s left outside be put in a house.
“They’re out looking for food,” he said.
In the event residents notice this bear, or any bear now or in the future, Waybright advises individuals to call 911. As a member of the law enforcement section of the DNR, Waybright said he’s limited as to what he can do.
“I’m armed with a gun so that’s not an option we’d like to use, which is the same as Bridgeport’s police. I do have rubber buck shot if there’s a problem and I can get close enough to one to remove it from an area, but that’s also a method that’s not preferred,” Waybright said.
If a bear gets cornered, Waybright said the DNR’s Wildlife Division is contacted. That group, he said, has traps and can use tranquilizers as needed.
Sightings of bear in Bridgeport aren’t common, but it’s also not unusual. Waybright said this is the third time in Bridgeport he’s handled calls in recent months. As mentioned previously in this article, call 911 if you spot the bear.
for updated story.
Editor's Note: Top photo shows Sgt. Bob Waybright and Bridgeport P&R Director Don Burton on the scene where the bear was last witnessed. Second photo is of Waybright talking to the individual that brought Mary Lewis back to the area to show the DNR official her cell phone photo, while bottom photo is a grainy picture of the bear taken by Lewis.