Webb students are frightened by wildlife on campus

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Heloise Robertson

A bear wanders around on the ground, looking back and forth, close to the trash cans. Siena Burke (‘25), and Marina Saeger (‘23), photograph the bear that stands outside of the South Hutch dormitory area. Ben Thienngern (‘23) spies a bear at the Upper Dorm garbage area. “I’ve seen wildlife around quite often lately. It has been quite a part of dorm life here at Webb, and personally I’m fine with that as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone,” Ben said. Roy Zhang (‘22) takes a picture of a bear outside of the art classroom, with a security guard prepared to remove it from campus.

n recent months, Webb has witnessed a spike in the frequency of wildlife appearances on campus, including bears, coyotes, and other animals. Bears are the main wildlife that enter dorm spaces and frighten students, and it is important for the Webb community to stay vigilant and prepared when encountering a bear.

Yvette Wu (‘25) was sitting in the library one Thursday evening when a bear walked in through the library door. It remained behind her before walking out while the teacher called security. This instance is one example of how bears arrive onto campus spaces, but do not attempt to harm others.

“I was not scared, because it was not as big as I thought [it would be], and the teachers also took a lot of measures.” Yvette said.

Although it is a manageable problem, since security has protocols that effectively prevent the community from getting hurt, it is still a priority to avoid having bears on campus. Many students are surprised by a bear sighting over the course of their Webb time. Bears can be seen either digging through the dorm trash cans, wandering in the dark, or even sitting on the Jameson dorm patio.

Cuong Pham, Director of Security & Special Operations, details that ultimately, one of the biggest factors for bear appearances on campus is the food that is constantly left out by students.  Food in any form, whether it be misplaced plates on dining hall tables or dorm trash areas not being closed properly, can attract a bear. Trash cans, such as the open ones without lids that are used during lunch at the dining hall, are not recommended, as there is no way to close off the scent of food.

“It’s easier for them to get garbage waste than to hunt for other animals.” Mr. Pham said. “That’s why they come. There are bear proof trashcans existing, but we have added new ones. So far, we have added close to 20, but we have more on order, just to mitigate that issue.”

Geoffrey Owers, math department faculty, was the dorm on-duty staff member when a bear crawled across Upper Jameson into the trash cans; he had to call security to remove it. The bear initially appeared on the porch area, then disappeared into a hallway, and easily jumped onto the fence of the garbage can.

“I tried to keep students away from the bear, and I reminded them to get back to their rooms,” Mr. Owers said. “I started yelling at it and it moved away a little bit. Overall, I wasn’t ever really scared, but I wanted to make sure we didn’t do anything to make it come at us. I called security to make sure that someone who normally does that kind of thing was able to take care of it, because I knew I wasn’t the right person.”

Removing bears from campus is easy for security, as they have developed a comprehensive process to ensure the bear is removed safely while also protecting students on campus. Upon arrival at the bear site, the security team uses the siren button on megaphones to guide the bear into a wooded area away from students and residents. There are typically two security guards with megaphones to guide the bear in a specific direction.

Students should remember to remove items that would attract bears, namely food, into the designated bear-safe trash cans. Students should also travel in pairs, if possible, especially at night, as during the day bears are not an issue. Mr. Pham suggests carrying keys or something that would make a lot of noise, possibly even an obnoxious ringtone. Making noise and making yourself appear larger is important, considering that bears are more scared of people than they are interested in hurting them. It is crucial to never run from the situation because it is not wise to make yourself prey.

If we as a community work to clean up after ourselves better and remember the necessary steps we can take to prevent harm, we can decrease the number of bears on our campus without hurting anyone in the process.