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Cumberland County Department of Public Safety: Bear Sightings Not an Emergency

posted Nov 14, 2014, 10:48 AM by Justin Eberly   [ updated Nov 14, 2014, 10:48 AM ]

CARLISLE, Pa. (WHTM) - Cumberland County 911 says people are tying up emergency lines with non-emergency calls, specifically calls about bear sightings.

"Someone will call and say, 'I saw a bear walking through my back yard,' or 'I was driving and saw a bear go across the road,'" Department of Public Safety spokeswoman Megan Silverstrim said. "Typically they're not anything dramatic. The bear isn't bothering anybody and doesn't want to be bothered by anybody."

Silverstrim said typically there are several calls about sightings in Upper and Lower Allen Townships. Recently, there was also a call from North Middleton Township. Middlesex Township police have asked people to stop calling 911 with reports of bear sightings.

"It's going to tie up a call-taker," Silverstrim said, "and that's going to be one less person in that room that's able to answer a phone call or answer the call of someone on the radio."

With recent scrutiny of Cumberland County's 911 Center operations, one goal for administrators has been to reduce the number of non-emergency calls that slow dispatchers from responding to emergencies.

"We are not a public directory," Silverstrim said. "It's really important to get that message out there, and we have strived to do it in the past, and it's something that we're definitely focused on more now going into the future."

If a bear is threatening you, your family, or a domestic animal, Silverstrim said you should absolutely call 911. However, if you have simply seen a bear in the area, your best bet is to avoid eye contact, back away slowly, and call the Pennsylvania Game Commission's Southcentral Regional Office at 814-643-1831.

For more on this story, check out abc27's coverage here.   abc27 photo.