SWEDEN VALLEY — A bear roaming through the area has broken into between 10 and 20 unlocked cars just in the past month, Chief Bryan Phelps, of the Sweden Township Police Department, said. This is unusually rare, Phelps said.
The alleged burglar, a 300-pound cinnamon bear, has been seen on trail cameras and other security cameras of homeowners in the area. This bear is smart, Phelps said, as it is not scratching the outside of the vehicle — it’s actually using the door handle to gain entry. Once the bear is inside the vehicle, it easily destroys the interior.
Skyler Gibble, state game warden, said he thinks it is the same bear breaking into the cars, as cinnamon bears aren’t very common and figuring out how to open car doors isn’t something bears normally do.
Phelps said he didn’t have any definite estimates on the amount of damage caused by the bears, but he said in older cars, it easily could have totaled the car, causing the owners to purchase a new vehicle.
The bear likely smells food within the car and gets inside to get the food. It doesn’t have to be food that is in the car, it could be a food wrapper or an old fast food bag, Gibble said. It could also be a learned behavior; the bear might have figured out that cars sometimes have food inside and then enters any car it sees, Gibble said.
Five traps have been set around Coudersport in an effort to catch the bear, Gibble said, but they are running into difficulties as the bear doesn’t stay in one spot for very long. The traps are set in rural areas and people from the game commission check on them every so often. The traps aren’t dangerous in that they can hurt people, but if someone is messing around with it, they could become trapped.
Once the bear is captured, Gibble said they plan to relocate the bear far away.
Gibble and Phelps both recommend that people lock their car doors at all times; not just because of animals, but to protect against people breaking in, too, Phelps said.
It’s very common for bears to wander into residential areas, especially in this region, Gibble said. He suggested people secure their garbage in a shed or in a basement; if that’s not possible, he said to secure the trash can as best they can and put a rag or T-shirt soaked in ammonia inside the can, as the ammonia scent messes with the bear’s nose. He also reminded people to just be cognizant that bears are around and not to approach or intentionally feed any bears.