No matter where you live these days, it’s easy to see creatures sharing your space: wild turkeys, foxes and raccoons, for example. And recently, bear sightings have been on the rise, even in the urban areas around Boston.
One day in mid-May, James Clements heard about a bear roaming around his Arlington neighborhood. Clements fills a bid feeder that hangs from a tree in his back yard every day. He told WGBH News that on the May afternoon he planned to follow his daily routine when he heard a strange sound.
“The helicopters woke me up,” Clements said. “The sound of two helicopters is actually pretty loud. I knew something was up. And then bang — I get an email from the town of Arlington saying, yeah keep your pets inside because you know there’s a bear.”
Yes, a bear. The 150-pound black bear was a few blocks from Clements house.
“I thought really there’s a bear? Don’t we live pretty close in?” Clements said, a puzzled look on his face. “I have a bird feeder. My wife’s already said maybe we shouldn’t fill the bird feeder again.”
Shortly after that bear showed up in Arlington, another appeared in Narragansett, Rhode Island. Animal control officials there said the black bear opened a woman’s car door. The woman took a picture as the animal stood on its hind legs tugging the door handle.
So why is there an increase in bears in residential neighborhoods? Dave Wattles, a bear biologist with the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, told WGBH News the bears are just bachelors looking for love.
“This is the mating season so males move widely at this time of year,” Wattles said. “So likely it followed a river system, bike path or other natural corridors.”
Wattles said these bears are younger males.
“These are bears that can’t compete with the dominant males in the established territory so they are trying to move into unoccupied portion of range and establish territories for themselves and potentially mate,” he said.
Wattles said there are 5,000 black bears in the state, mainly in Western Massachusetts. The males making their way to metro areas to mate may be out of luck. He said there aren’t many female bears in these areas.
State wildlife officials get about 250 to 300 calls a year, said Wattles, who added there has been an uptick in urban settings. The good news, he said, is that many of these bears have been seen before. While they are large and powerful, they aren’t prone to attack, he said.
“Bears are really tolerant of people. They are not inherently aggressive towards people,” Wattles said, “so giving bears space--bears are going to do their thing, and people and bears and co-exist quite nicely.”
The bear spotted in Arlington has been relocated but Wattles said that doesn’t mean it won’t come back. Before the bear showed up there, it was 25 miles away in Shirley.
Clements said he isn’t worried, he’s just added bears to his list of neighborhood animals.
“It’s a bear. Come on, it's not Godzilla,” Clements said with a smile. He then listed animals he’s seen recently.
“Chipmunks and squirrels and birds and, actually, I saw a red fox once,” he said. “A coyote, occasionally. You know, it’s not the Bronx Zoo, but it’s close.”
Wildlife officials advise members of public not to feed bears or approach the animals and to keep trash in barrels.