Black Bear Sighting in Wrentham
By Grace Allen
A black bear was spotted in Wrentham last month, prompting the Police Department to issue a warning on Facebook to residents. The bear was seen traveling along the old railroad bed near the Eastside Road area, and sightings were later reported along West Street and near Trout Pond.
Erin Mallette, a wildlife rehabilitator in Franklin and the part-time Millis/Medway animal control officer, said anyone encountering a bear out on a trail or while out on walk should not run away. Rather, she suggests backing up slowly. If a bear enters your yard, “haze” them by banging pots and pans, clapping, playing loud music, yelling and shouting and shining bright lights.
“You want to let the bear know that this is not a safe or welcoming area for them to be,” Mallette said.
She also suggests that dog owners keep their pets leashed while out on a walk in the woods. Female bears with cubs should never be approached.
Contrary to popular belief, black bears are not considered deep hibernators. According to Mass Audubon, while black bears may enter a den, usually between early November and mid-December, they will wake up if danger is near. Black bears typically den in caves, brush piles, depressions under fallen trees, or rock crevices.
The Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife estimates there are 4,500 black bears in the state and that number is increasing at a rate of about 8% a year. While most live in western Massachusetts, bears have been steadily moving east as land is being developed near their preferred habitats. Bear sightings in the area are no longer rare.
Norfolk’s animal control officer, Hilary Cohen, says the town typically gets one confirmed bear sighting a year. Based on scat and tracks, most sightings have occurred near the Norfolk and Millis town line.
“We haven’t had a situation to my knowledge where a resident has actually come in contact or conflict with a bear in Norfolk, but I would imagine that this could happen in the future with less available land, more development, people feeding birds and not securing trash,” said Cohen, noting that bears are opportunistic feeders. “Which is why the saying ‘a fed bear is a dead bear’ is applicable. Intentional and non-intentional man-made food sources left for bears can habituate them and then a conflict could arise.”
To discourage bears from your property, Mass Audubon recommends not putting up bird feeders, or only putting them up from mid-December to the end of February. Trash should be secured, and pet food should never be left outside. If you have a garden, berry patch, or orchard, pick fruit as it ripens and before it falls to the ground. Bee hives should be placed far from the woods, ideally in large, open spaces.
Mass Audubon suggests the following actions if you encounter a bear:
• Back away slowly and quietly while keeping your eyes on the bear to determine whether or not it’s following you. Never approach a bear to get a better look or to take a photo.
• Do not try to run from a bear or climb a tree. A black bear can do both and better than you. (Black bears can run up to 32 mph if necessary.)
• If the bear is aware of your presence, make yourself look as large as possible, raise your arms, and hold-up your knapsack or a coat. Singly loudly or speak in a firm, non-threatening voice while backing away.
• If the bear tries to approach, be aggressive: yell and wave your arms, jump up and down, blow a whistle or horn.
• An agitated black bear will often huff, stamp its paws, and make a lot of noise to let you know it wants its space. Continue backing away.
• Should the bear actually attack, roll onto your stomach or curl into the fetal position to protect your abdomen. Wrap your arms around your head to protect your neck and face. Remain on the ground until you’re absolutely sure the bear has moved on.