Friday, April 6, 2007
Black bear foraging escalates
Carlisle's bear is back, hungry after wintering in a Carlisle den. Last year it found bird food and bee hives made tasty meals, but this year it has discovered that the really good stuff is inside horse barns and on one occasion, on the other side of a dog door.
Last week barns on Concord Street and Russell Street were broken into, with damage to the barn. However, the owners' greatest concern was about the horses; in one case the horses refused to go back into the barn the next day, in the other, the horses were frightened and restless. The potential damage if a bear breaks down a fence and a frightened horse runs onto a main road is very real.
Official response changes
after bear enters barns
Residents often inform police when there is a bear sighting, although many are not reported. Local police rely on the Massachusetts Division of Fish and Wildlife (MassWildlife) personnel for advice, and on the state environmental police for assistance and control with a bear problem. MDFW manages the state's wildlife, and wildlife biologist Jim Cardoza from MassWildlife has expertise on bears. However, it is the environmental police who respond to a bear situation to determine the threat to human health and safety. The Division of Environmental Law Enforcement, under the Executive Office of Environmental Affairs, is responsible for enforcing laws and regulations related to wildlife, including hunting and fishing, as well as laws concerning pollution.
On March 29, a resident contacted Lieutenant Dave Brouilette of the environmental police about a problem with the bear. Brouilette and two officers from the environmental police inspected the Concord and Russell Street sites and waited (in vain) for a glimpse of the bear. In fact, no one knows whether it is one bear, two bears, or a mother with cubs in the den, although the presumption is that it is a single male bear.
What can be done?
As the Mosquito goes to press, there have been additional sightings on Blaisdell Drive, on Acton Street near Westford street, and on Fifty Acre Way. The environmental police are still involved. There are limited options for dealing with a bear problem. Cardoza said in a phone conversation earlier this week that there are three things one can do — the first being nothing, the second to block them with an electric fence or remove available food, and the third for the land owner to kill it because it is destroying property. This bear has already gone over an electric fence, and as for the third alternative, Cardoza says, "We wouldn't do it except in the most exceptional circumstances."
Pat Huckery, Northeast Regional Manager at MassWildlife has had "intense discussions" with Cardoza about a large animal response team policy. She believes the bear has settled into the area and that the escalation from bird feeders and bee hives last year to breaking into barns this year and even going up on the porch of a house and reaching through the dog door for food inside the house, is "an escalation of behavior that is unacceptable." The bear has a new pattern of behavior, i.e., going for food inside a structure, and she says, "the bear has to be destroyed." Relocating the bear does not appear to Huckery to be a viable option because the bear would take the new food search pattern with it to the new location.
Brouilette, from the environmental police, said that a recommendation about the bear would come from MassWildlife, but Huckery, when asked, said that the decision would be made jointly with the environmental police, who would put the bear down. She said that Section 37 of the state law allows them to do so. Lisa Capone, a spokesperson for the environmental police, says that there is a memorandum of understanding between them and MassWildlife that stipulates than an intervention involving both will be decided jointly. At this point, none of the professionals considers relocation an open option.
A "Black bear information evening" held April 5 in the Corey Auditorium featured Cardoza as a speaker and was supported by the Conservation Commission, the Carlisle Public School and the Conservation Foundation. The result of the meeting may be that townspeople become better informed about their newest wild resident without being able to save it.
© 2007 The