On May 30, a young black bear was spotted on Shepherd’s campus and in various spots around Shepherdstown. Police reports indicate that the sighting was brief, but proof that West Virginia’s state symbol was in town.
Kyle Munley, an enrollment information systems specialist, spotted the animal from the window of his temporary office on the third floor of Stutzman-Slonaker Hall. Munley reported that the bear ran around the side of the building and took off down the street. When asked about the size of the bear, he indicated it probably was not much taller than three feet. Munley, who was been living in the Eastern Panhandle for approximately a year, said it was his first bear sighting and “a cool thing to see at work.”
A RAVE alert was sent about 20 minutes after the first reported sighting. Recent Shepherd graduate Alex Severson was just outside of Shepherdstown at the time.
“I got a RAVE alert on my phone about a sighting of a bear in town. I happened to be going by at the moment and thought, ‘I need to find this bear,’ to which I went off to find the killer. Sadly, I did not locate Pooh,” he said.
As the semester came to an end, many students were home for the summer. Brendan Darby, a junior English major, was not on campus at the time, but did receive the RAVE alert.
“I wasn’t around for the incident, but it doesn’t seem that odd to me. Considering how rural Shepherd is, I’m surprised the campus doesn’t see bears more often,” he said.
The West Virginia Department of Natural Resources has reported a healthy increase in the bear population due mainly to forest regeneration and correct management of wildlife resources. The WVDNR does point toward a problem, especially in the Eastern Panhandle and around Charleston housing developments. The construction on new houses and the necessary infrastructure often disorient and frighten the animals, many times causing them to wander into residential areas.
A question often asked of the WVDNR is how great of a threat, if any, do the animals pose to humans. The state office indicates the threat is minimal if they are not engaged. Black bear are naturally fearful of humans and will usually retreat quickly.
If a student spots a black bear on campus, he should contact campus police immediately.