As many people are aware, a black bear first spotted in Sandwich on May 24 has travelled the length of Cape Cod. The bear’s presence has created excitement and questions from citizens, media, and municipal officials.
Biologists from the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (DFW) believe this is the same bear which appeared in southeastern Massachusetts last spring and travelled through a number of communities as far south as Acushnet before moving back into the Middleborough area for the winter of 2011. This bear is likely a young male bear which had dispersed many miles to find a new territory last year after being driven away by its mother.
In May of 2012, the bear had been observed near a chicken coop in Middleborough and a few days later reported in the South Plymouth area. It is likely that the bear swam across the Cape Cod Canal. Since then the bear has moved steadily east and was most recently sighted in Provincetown. These movements coincide with the time of year when male bears will roam large distances during the breeding season (summer months). The bear’s presence has created excitement and questions from citizens, media, and municipal officials. The Division is monitoring the bear’s movements on the Cape based on sightings and reports.
Black Bear Facts
While a bear on Cape Cod is a new experience for residents and communities, black bears are adaptable and known to co-exist with people in suburban areas of Massachusetts. The Division has assisted many communities, helping them to learn to live with bears.
The statewide population of bears last estimated in 2005 is 3,000 animals. The core range of the bear population in Massachusetts includes Worcester County, northern Middlesex County and west to the Berkshires. The black bear population has been slowly growing and expanding its range into eastern and southeastern Massachusetts. As the bear population expands and moves eastward, it likely that the presence of black bears on Cape Cod may occur again the future.
Black bears are wary of people and their first response is to flee from any perceived threat. The bear can be appreciated at a distance, but should be left alone. It is important that residents do not intentionally or unintentionally feed bears. Residents should bring in birdfeeders, secure trash in an enclosed shed or building, clean up after picnics or barbeques, and remove any other potential food sources. More detailed information about black bears can be found on the DFW website at: www.mass.gov/dfwele/dfw/wildlife/facts/mammals/bear/black_bear_home.htm
Response to Black Bears
Many questions have arisen about the Division’s response to this bear. The Division of Fisheries and Wildlife and the Environmental Police have an interagency Large Animal Response Team (LART) to respond to situations where bear and moose are posing a public safety threat. The team members consist of DFW biologists and Environmental Police Officers with specific training in chemical immobilization of large animals.
There are four options available to ensure public safety and the welfare of the animal when dealing with suburban or urban large animal response:
- Keeping tabs on the animal from a distance, or monitoring on-site, as it is sometimes called, is often all that is needed to allow the bear to move on. Usually the job becomes more public relations than public safety as officers try to keep people away from the bear.
- Trying to encourage the bear to go in a specific direction by using hazing techniques.
- Chemical immobilants (tranquilizers) may be used if the situation warrants this action. Trained staff from MassWildlife and/or the Environmental Police will exercise this option.
- The last resort, when an immediate threat to public safety exists and chemical immobilization is not appropriate, is to euthanize the bear. This option is rarely implemented and is coordinated with MassWildlife or the Environmental Police.
The Division considered and prepared for the option of trapping the bear on Cape Cod should the bear need to be re-located. Traps were placed for a short period of time in specific locations to assess the feasibility of this option in the event that relocation of the bear was necessary. The Division is currently not trapping and will continue monitoring the bear’s movements on Cape Cod and will only respond according to the existing protocol. It is possible that the bear may travel back to its original home range in southeastern Massachusetts.
Information from a press release.