The Pennsylvania Game Commission is hoping that the bear roaming near Pittsburgh Mills mall in Frazer has a sweet tooth.
On Monday afternoon, after a weekend in which one black bear entered the Sears department store of the mall and another larger black bear was spotted nearby, a Game Commission official prepared a bear trap.
Standing in a gravel lot near the Macy's department store, Matt Kramer, a wildlife conservation officer with the Pennsylvania Game Commission, said he and Frazer police officers would place the trap -- a large camouflaged canister bearing the words "Danger Bear Trap" -- at an undisclosed location near the mall so they could catch the bear alive and move it to a more remote location, perhaps in Indiana County.
The bait? Hostess Mini Muffins and Ding Dongs, as well as other pastries.
"We always use sweets," Officer Kramer said, calling it a more effective method than using meats, which can spoil quickly.
In Allegheny County, the art of catching a bear has been getting more practice lately.
"This year, it seems like we've gotten quite a few bears making their way through Allegheny County," said Tom Fazi, a spokesman for the Game Commission's Southwestern Region. This fall, the bear hunting season in the region that includes Allegheny County will be "liberalized" to combat the increased number of bears in the area, he said, meaning that licensed bear hunters here will have more days to hunt.
Many of the bear sightings reported to the Game Commission have been in the northern part of the county. Earlier this month, Game Commission officials removed a black bear from North Park, and Saturday night, officials removed a bear from inside the Pittsburgh Mills mall.
The small black bear, weighing about 120 pounds, entered the Sears store and walked around for about 15 minutes before it was tranquilized and removed from the store. The bear, a female that was probably a year and a half old, was released in Cambria County, Mr. Fazi said.
It wasn't the first time the Game Commission has encountered the bear. In early June near Johnstown, agency officials caught the bear and equipped it with a tracking collar. The tracking information showed the bear had traveled from Johnstown to Grove City and was likely making her way back to the Johnstown region when she found herself in the electronics section of the Sears store.
As for the second bear, a 200-300 pound adult spotted first near the mall's Olive Garden parking lot and later on Route 28 shortly after the first bear was tranquilized and caught, Mr. Fazi's theory is that the larger bear was a male seeking the female as its mate.
The mall-bound bears may have frightened some mall-bound people, but for Lori Ziencik, secretary and treasurer for the township of Frazer, the bear sightings came as no surprise.
The township offices are located within the mall, and although Ms. Ziencik was not there this weekend, two bears have walked onto the porch of her home in the last two years. It was only a matter of time, she said, before they visited the mall.
"I don't think this will be the last of them," she said.
To make sure no more bears enter the building, Jerry Crites, general manager for Pittsburgh Mills, said he has increased exterior security and has turned off the automatic function on the building's sliding glass doors, which is how the bear entered Sears Saturday night.
Mr. Crites said he has seen deer enter buildings through the automatic doors. The bear on Saturday, however, was a first. "It's not in the manual," he said.
First Published July 24, 2012 4:00 AM