We asked, you answered: Have you ever had an encounter with a black bear in Pennsylvania?

A black bear outside of a home in Julian, Centre County.

Reader-submitted photo of a black bear outside of a home in Julian, Centre County. (Photo: Carol E.)

By Patrick Berkery

June 13, 2024

We asked our newsletter readers if they’ve ever encountered a black bear in Pennsylvania. Turns out, quite a few have.

Bears wandering out of the forests and into neighborhoods is not uncommon in Pennsylvania, especially in spring and summer. 

According to the Pennsylvania Game Commission, as the summer breeding season approaches, bears tend to roam looking for food, following scents from miles away that may lead them to a dumpster behind a restaurant or the bird feeder in your backyard. (In this story, we’ve got tips on how to discourage bears from ending up on your property). 

Earlier this week in our newsletter (subscribe here), we asked our readers to tell us if they’ve ever had an encounter with a black bear in Pennsylvania. Turns out, quite a few have.

Answers have been edited for length and clarity:

“We live in a tiny village near State College. Our house is surrounded by forest, so bears frequent our property numerous times every summer. We love our birds, so it usually ends up that we have to stop feeding them for a period of time every year. Our bird feeders are a mess, all duct taped and stapled and zip tied. We’ve lost a few too as they’ve been carried off somewhere.”

-Carol E., Julian

“Last fall, a large black bear crossed my road as I was driving home from work one night. That bear has since been spotted on our neighbor’s cameras and made its way to our bird feeders early in spring and our garbage about three weeks ago. We are respectful of them and now are more careful when putting out trash to rinse everything well to reduce scents. We do enjoy our bird feeders so we compromise by setting a reminder to bring them inside every evening. So far, this routine is working and Mr. Bear has not stopped by lately!”

-Casey Nelson, Grove City

“We have on a few occasions come within feet of a bear. Once, while we were on our porch, a bear came in (our yard). We talked to it and it lay down. We felt it was waiting for us to leave so it could get to the hummingbird feeder. We continued having a conversation with it and after a while it got up and walked away.”

-Rodney Mutzabaugh, Clarks Valley

“I had one encounter a year ago. The bear in question was more afraid of me than I was of it and it took off. The worst time to have a bear encounter is when they are with cubs. Hopefully it won’t happen. But if it does, stay the hell away from the cubs and get as far from the bear as possible. If you can’t, pray!”

-Karl Beilstein, Butler 

“I was getting ready for work one morning and both the dog and the cat came tearing out of the dining room past my bedroom door and into the living room. Wondering what could have provoked such a reaction, I headed to the door in the dining room only to find a HUGE black bear standing just off my porch about 15 feet away. My porch is ground level. I opened the door a crack and yelled at him hoping that would encourage him to leave. He just looked at me, slowly turned around and sauntered up the hill behind my house. He did wreck my bird feeder so I hope he enjoyed his little snack.”

-Shirley Huston, Shade Township

“A few years ago we heard something on the porch, so my husband opened the back door and stepped out. A bear had come up onto the porch and upset the metal can I kept bird seed in. Luckily, the bear backed down off the porch and no one was hurt.”

-Cindy Bonner, Sligo 

“Walked out one warm summer day to what I first thought was a large black dog shaking off lots of water. Obviously he had been in my pool. Nope, that’s a big black bear and there was a second one at the edge of the woods. He had crawled out in the deep end. Surprisingly no damage to my liner.”

-Barbara Fritz, Columbia County

“When we lived in Clarks Valley, not far from Harrisburg, it was not unusual to see a black bear on the property. We had three acres of woods not far from State Game Lands. We raised our feeder pole to 17 feet and closed the shed with heavy bolts. That didn’t prevent them from trying to get in through the roof vent, unsuccessfully. They mostly came at night. We usually knew they had been there from something they moved or broke.”

-Cheryl Peters, Harrisburg 

“I’ve lived in Bear Creek since 2005. Since then, I’ve seen over 25 black bears.”

-Nis, Bear Creek

“It’s not spring in Bucks County without a bear sighting. I can usually spot them from my deck. I play the music pretty loud when I’m outside, which I think keeps them from getting too close to the house. But what do I know?”

-Terry T., Ottsville

“l drive a limousine. A few years ago, l was taking someone to a golf outing and was on Route 309 by Fort Washington and the guy in back said ‘That’s a bear!’ l looked and saw it standing up on the underpass beneath a bridge. The very next day it was all over KYW that the bear was in Fairmount Park. They ended up tranquilizing it and relocating it.”

-Sahib Askia, Southwest Philadelphia


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