You may remember this news on 23 December 2021: “Three days before Christmas a 260 pound black bear was trapped behind Boy Scout Headquarters in Downtown Pittsburgh where he’d been living for more than two weeks on a wooded hillside.”
How did a black bear end up in a city that’s nearly surrounded by rivers? Did he walk through the East End neighborhoods?
The clue comes from the bear’s first sighting in the Strip District, a neighborhood built on the Allegheny River floodplain. He probably came from the north and swam across the Allegheny.
According to the North American Bear Center in Ely, Minnesota black bears are “good swimmers though their speed and distance limits have not been tested. They can swim at least a mile and a half in fresh water. One bear swam more than 9 miles in the Gulf of Mexico.” (see Quick Black Bear Facts).
Since black bears operate at night to avoid us, we rarely see them swim but they can take to water like ducks when they want to travel or beat the heat. Here’s a black bear swimming in Canada.
During the heat of August 2015 a family of six bears splashed in a backyard pool in New Jersey.
The bears had fun but couldn’t help breaking things.
(photo from Wikimedia Commons, videos embedded from YouTube; click on the captions/videos to see the originals)