Berkshire Woods and Waters: Bear/human contact reported in New Marlborough

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At the Aug. 22 Mass Fish & Wildlife board meeting at The Stationery Factory in Dalton, Environmental Police Officer Captain Tony Abdal-Khabir and DFW Western District Supervisor Andrew Madden reported on a bear/human contact. It occurred on Aug. 21 in New Marlborough. A large bear was tearing apart a peach tree and the owner (who we shall call the reporting party) tried to chase it away. The bear closed the distance of about 38 feet and clawed his forearm.

He called 911 and soon local police and EMS were the on the scene. Shortly thereafter Lt. Carlow of the Environmental Police arrived, then Madden and after him additional officers. According to Madden, the abrasions were superficial with light injuries. The reporting party received treatment at the scene.     Because the wounds were so light and superficial, Madden felt that it wasn't a true attack or an intent to harm him necessarily, but rather an intent to bluff him.

Madden and Carlow spent time walking around the property looking for the bear but didn't find it or any sign of it. Based upon the description it was likely a male and it could have been miles away by then. The reporting party was satisfied with that and in Madden's opinion was content with that situation. They advised him of his Section 37 rights (right to protect himself and his property from wildlife) and moved on from there. The reporting party has had encounters with bears before. He is a bear hunter and had taken one during last year's bear hunting season. He was well-versed with bear identification and said it was a large bear. Madden had no doubt that where he lives, who he is and his experience, it was a large bear.

According to Abdal-Khabir, the takeaway is that they had a successful deployment using bear protocol which they have been working on. They had rapid response by both agencies and were able to operate within the parameters set forth. The end result is that they did not have to euthanize the bear.

The reporting party, even though he had a minor contact, was so lucky, said Adam-Khabir. Even a small yearling can do considerable damage at that proximity.

"We must take them seriously and give them the respect they deserve", said Madden.

At the same board meeting, Madden reported that they have initiated a bear collaring program here in the Western District. Their intended goal was to trap two or possibly three sows and put radio collars on them. In actuality, they captured 18 bears which included six sows. Of the six captured, they lost contact with one due to a collar mechanical failure and another one that was killed by a resident after it killed some chickens. They are down to four sows now, but still beyond their expectations.

He commented on the number of large bears that were caught. They trapped two bears that were well over 400 pounds and another over 300 pounds, and that was in the spring when they were coming off of hibernation and hadn't had a chance to fatten up yet. They also had a couple on film that exceeded those 400-pound bears, so there are 500-pound bears out there.

He commented that the towns where they have the most bear complaints are in towns like Stockbridge, Monterey and Otis, where there is a huge influx of people in the summertime, with summer camps, second homeowners, etc. and bears are active at that time searching for food.

Madden gave an update on some bears that were considerably under nourished and underweight which were found in the spring. Some weighed less than 20 pounds and one only weighed nine pounds. It was a phenomenon that was also reported in Vermont and New Hampshire. He said that two were left in place as there was no public safety concern. They had to move two of them, one was hanging over Route 9 in Cummington that was creating a public situation and the other one was inside a garage. They removed it and brought it to Tufts University Wildlife Clinic for two weeks and then relocated it. They had no answer as to what caused their underweight conditions, perhaps a bad drought the year before.

Incidentally, the first season of black bear hunting opens on Sept. 5 and runs to Sept. 23. A permit is required.     If you take a bear with an ear tag or radio collar, contact DFW's Field Headquarters at 508-389-6300 immediately. You will be asked for information that will help biologists determine the source and status of these animals and you will be asked to return the equipment to MassWildlife.

Duck Hunting Opening Day Change

If any Berkshire hunters are planning their usual opening day duck hunt on Columbus Day, please take note. This year the Fish & Wildlife Board changed the opening day to one day later, Oct. 10. This change was the result of sportsmen answering questionnaires which were sent out by MassWildlife. Not to worry, they say, hunters will still have the same number of duck hunting days. They added another day at the end of the season...December 25! I thought you would like to know so that you have time to try to get Oct. 10 off from work or school.

Community Celebration Day

The Berkshire Natural Resources Council (The Landkeepers) wants you to help them celebrate their 50th anniversary by attending a Community Celebration Day on Sept. 9 at Holiday Farm, 100 Holiday Cottage Road, Dalton, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

There will be hay rides, guided hikes, archery, fishing, birds of prey and music. While registration is not required, they ask that you please consider letting them know if you'll attend by reserving a free ticket by contacting Mackenzie Greer at the BNRC website.

Questions/comments: Berkwoodsandwaters@roadrunner.com. Phone: 413-637-1818.

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