Bears are bolder, late season food sources to blame
WILLIAMSTOWN — It's been a steady parade of bears.
Social media sites are filled with images of bears. Bears in trees. Bears picking through trash. Bears strolling on sidewalks.
And it's more than just bears. On Monday, North Adams police were called to the Clark Biscuit apartment building to evict a woodchuck from an interior hallway.
Skunks also are appearing in what seem to be greater numbers than during past seasons.
Authorities across the Berkshires have been peppered with calls about wildlife in recent weeks. In Pittsfield, a young bear had to be tranquilized last month after it ran up a tree next to Pittsfield High School. It was caught in a net after falling from the tree and safely returned to a wooded area.
"I know that with the bears, the natural food sources are delayed this year," said Williamstown Police Chief Kyle Johnson. "And the bears do seem bolder. They have been around humans enough now so that they aren't as afraid. And they are hungry. They are looking for an easy food source."
Dumpsters, trash cans and bags, bird feeders, cook-out or picnic remnants left in yards, all of these things are very enticing to hungry bears, said Adams Animal Control Officer Kim Witek.
"I know up where I live, everyone has had bears getting into their trash," Witek said. "I keep my trash inside until the day of the garbage pickup and I haven't had any problems with bears."
Both officials emphasized removing bird feeders from outdoor locations and keeping yards free from any type of food, even if is garbage.
"And no one should be going near the bears," Johnson said. "No one should be throwing things at them, no one should be trying to chase them from the yards. Bears are very unpredictable."
If bears are seen rummaging through trash containers, leave them alone and when the bear is gone, clean up the mess, Johnson suggested.
"And don't leave the garbage outside," he said.
He noted that when bears are seen in very rural, remote, wooded areas, the sighting isn't unusual.
"That's where bears live," he said. "If there is a bear on Spring Street, or in a populated area with lots of people, then we need a report."
"It's a common sense approach," Witek said. "I know the bears will stick around where there is a food supply, why would they leave?"
At this point in the year, two things are adding to the bear presence, said Andrew Madden, state Division of Fisheries and Wildlife Western District Manager.
"There is gap in the food supply as the early spring vegetation is gone and the berries and fruits are not out yet" he said. "And this is mating season for bears so the young males are traveling around. They can cover a lot of territory.'
Humans have contributed to the bear problems, he said.
"People have done a good job of training the bears to come into the yards and neighborhoods to get food," Madden said. "People have been unwilling to bring in the bird feeders and keep the trash and garbage stored indoors. Feeding birds at this time of year really has no purpose, the birds have plenty of food. And bears will find food sources."
"The truth is, people have been unwilling to adapt to bear country, and if you live in the Berkshires, you live in bear country," Madden said.
A mild winter coupled with ample food supplies last fall meant a strong survival rate for many wildlife creatures, he added.
"The populations probably are increased some," he said.
"I know I have had reports of woodchucks taking up residence under porches and in abandoned buildings," Witek said. "I tell people to walk around their properties and if they see access points, board them up. Put boards over any holes where an animal can get under a porch or a house."
Living in rural communities means sometimes dealing with wildlife, she said.
"If you live in the Berkshires, you are going to get critters and sometimes the critters are going to be in your yard," she said.
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