Shadyside campus has Chatham Cougars, but Eden Hall has black bears

Photo Credit:

Jackie Clark

Last month, there was a nighttime sighting of a black bear behaving strangely near Chatham University’s Eden Hall campus, and students there have witnessed periodically black bears around campus. 

The University advised that students should become familiar with black bear behavior and know what to do if they encounter one.

This information was outlined in an email sent to Eden Hall residents.

  1. It is rare for black bears to attack. “Black bears generally are non-aggressive and shy. … They want to meet you less than you want to meet them,” the email from Eden Hall’s Residence Life office said.
  2. There is a higher chance of bear encounters when there are locations with easy-to-obtain food. For Eden Hall students, they should make sure that food is secured in trash bags and placed in the appropriate trash receptacles. As fall transitions into winter, black bears are more active because they search for food to eat before their winter hibernation. Visiting Shadyside students should try to not leave food lying around at Eden Hall, nor should they try to feed a black bear if they see one. Students should place their garbage in the campus trash cans. 
  3. Eden Hall staff advises students to just leave a bear alone if one is sighted.  Bears, if they encounter humans, typically exhibit non-threatening movements, such as standing up and sniffing around. According to the email from the University, “In most cases, a bear will detect you first and leave the area before you see it.”
  4. If a bear does not seem to want to leave, alert the bear with a noise of your presence and give it enough time to retreat on its own. You can also slowly walk backward — away from the bear — to give it room to flee and diffuse the situation.
  5. Staying calm is important, too. If you don’t, then the bears can feel threatened or surprised. They may clack their jaws together, sway their heads or charge. If a bear does charge, Eden Hall campus advised students that the best course of action is to wave your arms wildly and shout to try to “intimidate the bear into retreating.”
  6. While bear attacks are rare, the email advised students to fight back in the event of an attack, explaining that “bears have been driven away when people have fought back with rocks, sticks, binoculars and even their bare hands.”

For more information on black bears, visit the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s website. If you do see a black bear on the Eden Hall campus, please contact Jessica Bartko, assistant director of residence and student life at Eden Hall, or Stacey Enck, Eden Hall’s facilities manager.