Smart Talk

Smart Talk is a daily, live, interactive program featuring conversations with newsmakers and experts in a variety of fields and exploring a wide range of issues and ideas, including the economy, politics, health care, education, culture, and the environment.  Smart Talk airs live every week day at 9 a.m. on WITF’s 89.5 and 93.3.

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Host: Scott LaMar

Black Bears / Planetary Precipitation

Written by Rich Copeland - Producer, WITF's Smart Talk | Nov 20, 2017 8:00 PM

On the Tuesday November 21st, 2017 edition of WITF's Smart Talk:

Pennsylvania's bear hunting season began on Saturday, the state issued around 175,000 licenses for rifle and bow hunters this year.  The state is home to about 20,000 black bears and officials are expecting a 2-3% kill rate for hunters.  PA hunters recorded 666 black bear kills on opening day - down from 1,142 last year.

While black bears can be a common sight in the rural and mountainous regions of PA, more and more residents are reporting bears in and around developed communities.  A bear's sense of smell is seven times more sensitive than a bloodhound's; they will sniff out and pursue any and all food sources.

Black bear mating season runs through the summer and male bears will more than 20 miles a day to find a female, and those female pheromones can travel for miles, often across human development.  This, coupled with a bear's insatiable appetite for food, will drive bears into backyards and commercial dumpsters.

On Tuesday's Smart Talk, we discuss human interaction with black bears, the dangers they may pose to people and the threat of human encroachment on the state's bear population with Pennsylvania Game Commission wildlife biologist Mark Ternent.

Also, a team of astronomers at Penn State discovered a planet 2000 light years away with some unique weather patterns; it snows sunscreen on planet Kepler-13Ab.  The planet orbits a binary star system, Kepler-13A, and is in a tidally locked orbit - like our own moon, the same side of the planet always faces its host star.


On the dark side of planet Kepler-13Ab, it snows titanium oxide, the main ingredient in sunscreen.  The Penn State team's discovery added Kepler-13Ab to a list of planets throughout our solar system and universe whose conditions allow for some truly weird stuff to fall from their skies.

We'll discuss this discovery and some of the more bizarre forms of precipitation throughout the universe, including molten iron, glass and even diamonds with team member Thomas Beatty, an assistant research professor with Penn State's Department of Astronomy & Astrophysics.


- Great news regarding the increase in black bears. Please ask Mr. Ternent if he sees any possibility of another important apex predator, the eastern panther (mountain lion) returning to portions of Pennsylvania. A study shows  that a lot of potential panther habitat exists in western Pennsylvania.

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Additionally, a 2016 Washington University study shows that the return of panthers to the eastern United States would save human lives due to the occurrence of less vehicle deer collisions where the cougars exist.  "The researchers found that within 30 years of cougars recolonizing the Eastern U.S., large cats could thin deer populations and reduce vehicle collisions by 22 percent -- each year preventing five human fatalities, 680 injuries and avoiding costs of $50 million." ;                                        - Rodger, Seven Valleys

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