Bear Sightings Continue to Rise

The bears keep coming.

Park rangers said last week that a month after a dramatic upswing in the number of bear sightings in the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Park, the number has increased dramatically.

There have been 72 reports of bear sightings this summer, most in the western reaches of the park, which parallels the Potomac River. That's up from 18 reported early last month--a number that amazed park officials at the time. In the previous decade, the park had recorded only two such sightings.

The bear sightings nearest to Washington came in late June in Germantown, where a bear was seen in suburban back yards and a swim club parking lot.

Doug Stover, the park's chief of resource management, said last week that rangers now have a small gallery of bear photographs turned in by park users.

Stover said most of the sightings are of yearling black bears, out on their own for the first time, and whose sources of food and water have been diminished by the drought.

The park has distributed fliers warning campers and hikers to avoid the bears, and so far, he said, there have been no unpleasant encounters. He added that he had heard no further reports of bears being hit by cars. One was struck and killed just across the river in West Virginia on June 24.

-- Michael E. Ruane

Precocious Coed Likes College

Partying played little part in Cambria Watson's freshman year at Mary Baldwin College in Staunton, Va., but after all, she's only 15.

Watson, now looking forward to her sophomore year and perhaps a major in biology, is in a special program for young students. Most college haunts don't admit 15-year-olds, and a curfew that applies to students younger than 16 "put a damper on socializing," she recalled recently. But she found time to unwind on hiking trips and an occasional movie.

She earned a respectable 3.0 grade-point average and is looking for improvement next semester when her course load will include calculus, biology and possibly genetics.

Watson said the work is challenging, but she has no regrets about going to college at an early age. "In four years, instead of wondering what grad school I want, I'd be wondering what college I'd be going to," she said. "That's not cool."

Her sisters, Tenea, 19, and Noshua, 21, participated in the same curriculum for gifted middle-schoolers. Now Tenea is working on a doctorate at the University of Rochester, while Noshua recently received a master's degree in economics from Stanford.

Watson is back in Silver Spring for the summer, where her friends from her childhood days--a year or so ago--are filling her in on the uniquely ninth-grade art of gossip and other skills.

"They said they're going to make a high-schooler out of me this summer," Watson said. "We're still friends and we're still really alike."

-- Hannah Allam

Dogs Leave Shelter for Home

Snooper and Schotzi have found new families, but Smokey and Max are still living at the Washington Animal Rescue League kennel. Bambi doesn't have a home, but she does have a new career as an ambassador of goodwill at the Soldiers' and Airmen's Home.

It was a hot July day--a dog day, you might say--when a reporter found the pooches enjoying a new park and pool that the league had opened to give unwanted pets a place to play and exercise.

By last weekend, all the dogs had been visited by prospective adoptive families at the shelter, at 71 Oglethorpe St. NW. Schotzi, an exuberant West Highland terrier, and Snooper, a large Akita mix, were snapped up, said spokeswoman Kathleen Ewing.

Smokey, a mixed shepherd, continues to get his daily pool time and Max, a golden retriever mix, still puts only his front paws into the pool, Ewing said.

Bambi was selected as the first of the shelter dogs to receive training in a pet therapy program. The mid-size black-and-white dog, whose enthusiasm for anything fun--water, toys or visitors--will entertain residents of the Soldiers' Home.

"She gets so much out of life and she gets along so well with people, that she is the perfect candidate," said Lynne McReady, director of animal welfare for the League.

Ewing said League policy is to keep healthy and adoptable dogs at the kennel until they are adopted.

"Sometimes it takes more than a year to make the right placement," Ewing said. "We just keep trying."

-- Linda Wheeler