At 7:30 a.m. Friday, Barb Delaney was preparing to leave her Oneonta home to visit a granddaughter at a picnic in a local state park.
“I saw something out of the corner of my eye,” she said. When she turned to look outside, there was a bear standing on the deck about 10 feet away — with a sliding glass door, chair and deck railing separating them.
“Too close for comfort,” she said.
She roused her husband, Pat, from bed, and they called 911 to to alert authorities. Meanwhile, the bear was feasting on bird seed from a feeder on the deck railing.
“I couldn’t believe it,” he said. The Delaneys said they have lived at Melody Village on state Route 7 in Oneonta since 2003 and this was their first bear sighting at home, which is near woods and a swamp. The bear left the Delaneys’ elevated deck and sauntered into the nearby woods before state police arrived.
Sgt. Marc Barbera, station commander in Oneonta, said he saw a photograph in which the bear appeared about 4 feet tall and probably was an adolescent. Some claw scratches were visible where it had been on the deck, he said.
Bears can be aggressive if cornered but their first instinct is to flee, Barbera said. Residents who want to avoid bear visits shouldn’t put bird seek out, he said.
Sighting of black bears, which are native to the area, aren’t uncommon this time of year, said Larry Bifaro, wildlife biologist with the state Department of Environmental Conservation in Stamford. The bears are looking for food, specifically bird seed and garbage, he said.
This year, the office has received three calls about sightings in Otsego County, two in Schoharie County and about 30 in Delaware County, though for the nine-county region, the number of calls has been down from recent years, Bifaro said. Calls start in mid-May and continue during the summer, then drop off in mid-August when bears are finding black cherries and berries in their habitat.