Chief Kleber: Bear sightings up in Athol

  • Bears will wander into back yards and neighborhoods if there’s something there to attract them, like food. File Photo

For the Recorder
Published: 7/6/2018 7:36:03 PM

ATHOL — In May, David Small of Athol spotted a mama bear and her three cubs in his neighborhood on Pleasant Street. The animals spent about two and a half hours traveling between houses, he said.

“We observed from a distance, we took photographs and videos, but we kept a safe distance. We certainly don’t encourage them coming into the yard, but they were moving around,” said Small.

His sighting isn’t the only one happening around town. Athol Police Chief Russell Kleber said the department has gotten more calls regarding bear sightings this year than last year.

“We are getting about one sighting a week — more than usual,” he said.

According to the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, there are about 4,500 bears in Massachusetts and that number is growing. Male black bears range in weight from 130 to 600 pounds, while females range from 100 to 400 pounds.

Kleber said residents need to be smart if they see a bear. He said they need to keep a safe distance and take precautionary measures to not attract bears into back yards and neighborhoods.

“You have to be very careful,” he said. Bears are wild animals. They should be out in the wild, not in neighborhoods.”

The Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife recommends removing bird feeders, as they attract bears. Securing trash by storing garbage in closed containers, or making sure to use double bags or sprinkle them with ammonia to help reduce odors bears might be attracted to are steps to take to prevent bears from wandering into local neighborhoods.

For those who still want to enjoy seeing birds in their back yards, Small said to install a bird bath instead of a feeder.

“Particularly if the bird bath has a fixture or a little fountain in it that has moving water the bears can hear,” he said.


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