Black bear causes campus concern

Animal sparks variety of actions

A black bear ventured onto the Allegheny College campus Tuesday, Sept. 19.

Jeremy Shaban, ’18, saw the bear when he was walking back to his dorm room in Allegheny Commons after getting dinner at McKinley’s Food Court. He and his roommates Paul Sutkowski, ’18, and Spencer Subega, ’19, had just met up and planned to walk back to their room to eat.

Shaban said the group saw the bear while they were talking about other recent bear sightings in Meadville.

“We were actually just talking about the bear, because on Facebook they’ve got this thing called FYI Crawford County or something like that,” Shaban said. “Paul had seen posts about the bear online and we were just talking about that, so it was perfect timing.”

Sutkowski said he had been informed of earlier bear sightings in the Meadville area by a group text from his boss.

Sutkowski spotted the bear first, when the group was near the water tanks at HP Way Park, between North Village Building B and the Commons.

“We were just walking down the path,” Sutkowski said. “And we were maybe a quarter of the way down it, and all of a sudden, I had been looking down, I looked up and said ‘Hey guys, stop, I think that’s the bear down there.’ ”

Shaban said the bear did not appear to notice the group.

“The bear didn’t do much,” Shaban said. “I think at some point it like sort of didn’t run, but sort of moved closer to us, not thinking of us, or even I don’t think, noticing us. But it went closer to us. So that’s when we sort of thought we should get out of the way completely. So that’s when we went around the water towers.”

Sutkowski once lived in a campground near Ellwood City, Pennsylvania. He said while living there, he learned how to act when coming into contact with a bear. He said he used that knowledge during the encounter.

“We started walking backwards slowly, keeping an eye on it,” Sutkowski said. “And we got about past the fence to the benches, and then a car was pulling into the parking lot, scared the bear and we saw it run into the woods, and we thought ‘oh, it’s gone now,’ and we weren’t sure if it was going to come back out, so we decided to walk around the water towers instead, and when we got back around, we saw the bear had come out of the woods again and was walking around the playground.”

By this time, more people were watching the bear.

“There were some other people on the sidewalk, and across the street, who also were there, just watching the bear,” Shaban said. “And we sort of just watched it do its thing, and talked about it and other bear sightings in our lives.”

The bear then took the walking path up to the Commons parking lot and climbed a tree.

“He stayed up for a little while, and I guess got bored and jumped off,” Shaban said.

Sutkowski estimated that the bear stayed in the tree for 10 seconds before jumping off and running back into the woods.

“It didn’t seem to like it very much, because it leapt off the tree and then ran into the woods, and that was the last we saw of it,” Sutkowski said.

Shaban said he and his friends felt the bear sighting had a calming effect on them.

“We were just enjoying nature,” Shaban said. “It’s very calming, just talking about it. I think Spencer and Paul were taking photos most of the time.”

Subega guessed that the bear appeared to be about two years old.

“I mean it was about medium-sized, I guess, kind of scrawny looking,” Subega said. “I don’t know too much about bears, just looking at them to judge age, but I would guess maybe two years old.”

Subega also mentioned that the bear sighting surprised a bicyclist riding past.

“This guy was biking down from the Commons,” Subega said. “He didn’t know that the bear was there, and he was coming on the sidewalk that we were all on, and we all noticed him, and he just freaked out because he noticed the bear all of a sudden, and he had no idea that it was there.”

Sutkowski said that while most people seemed to notice the bear, some were oblivious.

“Out of nowhere, three runners wearing neon clothes run out from behind the water towers and the bear was 20 feet away from them, and none of them had noticed it,” Sutkowski said. “So we called them over. They just ignored everyone, basically.”

A desk officer at the Public Safety office mentioned that bears did live in the Meadville area and this was not the first time that the campus had been visited by a bear. Five years ago, she said, one ran across the campus.

“There’s more and more of them every year, it seems,” the officer said.

Spencer Subega
A black bear on campus Tuesday. The bear roams on the HP Way Park playground, near the Allegheny Commons.
Spencer Subega
The bear walks near a path by the park next to the Allegheny Commons.