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Bears showing up everywhere

  • Recorder file photo<br/>A bear takes a drink at a local birdbath. Bears have been ambling into yards all over Franklin County. Officials say: take the bird seed inside.

    Recorder file photo
    A bear takes a drink at a local birdbath. Bears have been ambling into yards all over Franklin County. Officials say: take the bird seed inside.

  • Recorder file photo<br/>A bear goes after a sweet treat by way of a hummingbird feeder in a local back yard.

    Recorder file photo
    A bear goes after a sweet treat by way of a hummingbird feeder in a local back yard.

  • Recorder file photo<br/>A bear takes a drink at a local birdbath. Bears have been ambling into yards all over Franklin County. Officials say: take the bird seed inside.
  • Recorder file photo<br/>A bear goes after a sweet treat by way of a hummingbird feeder in a local back yard.

The Brothers Grimm collected many fine fairy tales illustrating the dangers of antagonizing woodland creatures by, for instance, stealing their porridge. They neglected to mention, however, the dangers of enticing them with birdseed, garbage or undersized pets.

The American black bear is native to the area and its local population has been showing up in Greenfield’s “urban” neighborhoods this week.

Montague and Sunderland police also logged reports Saturday and Sunday of bears in backyards, singly or in family groups.

A Montague Road, Sunderland, resident on Saturday reported a black bear active in the area for almost a month and in a neighbor’s yard almost every day. A caller from West Mineral Road in Montague on Sunday reported a mother bear, with her cub, outside at their bird feeders.

Seven other bear sightings appeared in the Greenfield police log alone this month. One report was of a bear in a tree in a Log Plain Road yard and two of a bear asleep in a tree, one on Eastern Avenue and the other on Wildwood Avenue. One caller Tuesday reported a bear in a yard on High Street. Another that day reported a bear in the back yard on Lincoln Road.

The first bear sighting of the month recorded in the log was less relaxed. A vehicle struck a bear near the rest area on the Mohawk Trail and police put the injured animal down with a pistol.

According to the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, the animals typically emerge from their dens in early March and mid-April and start looking for food, which in settled areas can been found in backyard bird feeders and household trash.

According to the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, black bears are not fierce; they will usually flee humans and mothers will protect their cubs by putting them up a tree. The mother bear may huff and puff and make short rushes at people who get near the cubs, but will almost never press home an attack. Yet, that’s no reason to irritate or approach a bear, which can be dangerous. In Massachusetts, the males average 230 pounds and the females 140 pounds, both with teeth and claws, and it may not be prudent to risk keeping one around with the tantalizing aroma of garbage and conveniently replenished bird feeders.

The danger, however, is mostly to the bear.

Bears can become used to humans and to the food they leave outdoors, which may lead to property damage and to the destruction of the bear out of fear or to prevent further damage. Bears have occasionally broken into homes or killed goats in the Franklin County area.

Appropriate response:

If you find a black bear in your yard between Sept. 3 and Sept. 21 or Nov. 4 and Nov. 23, you are more than 500 feet from any other residence or occupied building, 150 feet from any paved roadway and you have a hunting license and a firearm of the appropriate caliber or a bow of the prescribed tension, you might consider killing and eating the bear.

However, Laura Conlee, bear project leader for the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, recommends that you appreciate bears from a distance.

“The first thing most people will do is make noises to deter the bear from the area, but a lot of people will just enjoy the wildlife sighting,” Conlee said.

In either case, Conlee said a bear is unlikely to be seen near a residence unless it has been drawn there by some food source. Common draws are garbage, pet food, birdseed or an uncleaned grill. After the bear has moved on, these attractants should be removed, Conlee said.

Leaving food outside unintentionally, or intentionally feeding the bears will accustom them to being near humans and teach them to look for food near homes. This behavior may lead to the bear becoming a threat to public safety, or considered as such, and shot.

Chicken coops and bee hives can be protected with electric fencing, she said.

If letting children or pets out in the yard, it may be advisable to announce their presence with loud noises, and it is best to keep dogs leashed when walking them as some may try to corner a bear. A dog surprising or cornering a bear is likely to get swatted. Cats should be kept indoors, she said, but more for fear of coyotes and fishers.

Conlee said residents may report bear sightings to the town or the environmental police, particularly if they feel the animal is doing something out of the ordinary, but bears are a fact of life.

“Especially in western Mass., bears are there and they will come into back yards,” she said.

Conlee urged anyone with bear-related questions to call their district office for advice and solutions.

The Connecticut Valley District office of the DFW is located in Belchertown, at 413-323-7632.

You can reach Chris Curtis at:
ccurtis@recorder.com
or 413-772-0261, ext. 257

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