It’s bear season in Weston.
Last week, Mark Harper, Weston’s animal control officer, chased a black bear along Davis Hill Road and Lord’s Highway East, but didn’t catch him.
A black bear was also spotted around the same time in Westport on Weston Road. It’s unclear whether that bear was the same one Mr. Harper came across, but it’s possible. “Black bears have a 20- to 30-mile territory, so they get around,” Mr. Harper said.
Mr. Harper knows bears well because he was once a bear hunting guide in Canada. He said the bear on Davis Hill Road appeared to be a two-year-old male weighing about 125 pounds. He said it was headed toward the reservoir on Davis Hill Road.
No damage was reported in either of the bear sightings.
Black bear activity is monitored by Connecticut’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP). In one year’s time, from June 5, 2012, to May 29, 2013, DEEP received 2,860 reports of black bear sightings in the state.
Mr. Harper said last year, he got 40 calls about bears in Weston, and four reports so far this year.
In the late 1800s, there were almost no black bears in Connecticut, according to DEEP. But since then, sightings have increased due in part to the regrowth of forestland. As a result, bears are now popping up in residential areas.
Black bear, which are found in Connecticut, have short, thick legs, and are the smallest North American bear. Adult males, called boars, normally weigh from 150 to 450 pounds, while females, or sows, weigh from 110 to 250 pounds. Yearlings weigh 45 to 100 pounds. Adults are five to six feet long.
The black bear’s coat is glossy black or brownish black, and the bear’s muzzle is tan. Black bears have five toes with large claws on all feet.
Weston’s landscape, covered in forestland, waterways, and rock ledges, is the perfect habitat for black bears. Bears are omnivorous — they eat grasses, fruits, nuts, and berries. They also like insects (particularly ants and bees) and scavenge carrion.
They’ve also been known to raid bird feeders and garbage cans. Occasionally, they’ll prey on small mammals, deer, and livestock, according to the DEEP.
Bears could pose a danger to people, so Mr. Harper advises residents to use caution if they come across one in their yard. Bears can also turn up along the rivers and waterways in town, and at the nature preserves such as Devil’s Den or Trout Brook Valley. Last year, Mr. Harper said, a female bear and her cubs were spotted at Devil’s Den.
“I advise people to observe bears from a distance in a safe and secure area. If you come close to a bear, make your presence known. Wave your arms to make yourself look bigger. Yell and scream and walk backwards and retreat to a house or car,” Mr. Harper said.
Most times, male bears will avoid confronting humans or will be scared off by them, Mr. Harper said. But female bears are another story. “If you come across a mother bear and her cubs, watch out,” Mr. Harper said.
He said female black bears are very protective of their cubs and will get aggressive towards anyone they feel is interfering with them.
The mother’s protectiveness eventually wanes though, and after two years, she sends her offspring away to fend for themselves. Mr. Harper said the bear on Davis Hill Road could have been one that was recently separated from his mother. Once on their own, males start wandering around, looking for companionship and their own territory.
Avoid attracting bears
To avoid attracting bears to your property, Mr. Harper and DEEP offer the following tips:
• Remove bird feeders from late March through November. If a bear visits a bird feeder in the winter, remove the feeder.
• Wait until the morning of collection before bringing out trash. Add a few capfuls of ammonia to trash bags and garbage cans to mask food odors. Keep trash bags in a container with a tight lid and store in a garage or shed.
• Do not leave pet food outside overnight. Store livestock food in airtight containers.
• Do not put meats or sweet-smelling fruit rinds in compost piles. Lime can be sprinkled on the compost pile to reduce the smell and discourage bears.
• Thoroughly clean grills after use or store in a garage or shed.
• Never intentionally feed bears. Bears that associate food with people may become aggressive and dangerous. This may lead to personal injury, property damage, and the need to destroy problem animals.
• Encourage neighbors to take similar precautions.
Bear sightings can be reported to Mr. Harper at 203-222-2642.