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Facebook Moms Tracking Local Bear's Comings And Goings



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Anne Scarpa on May 26 thought she saw a dog in her yard from an upstairs window, then realized it was a bear. She and her daughter quickly took pictures as the bear “ate some vegetation, then went through a split rail fence.” She said it went in the direction of Bennetts Bridge. Ms Scarpa described the bear as “very cute and mellow.” She said its movements were slow and it was “doing nothing too destructive.”

Ms Scarpa soon learned about a Facebook page, Newtown Moms Unite, where other residents had been posting accounts of bear sightings in late May. Locations for the bear, based on the Facebook posts and inquiries either sent to or shared with The Bee, track its locations in Sandy Hook along roads off Berkshire Road (Route 34) on the Lake Zoar side, from Great Quarter Road, and moving west along the river toward Stonebridge Road, Gelding Hill Road, Founders Lane, Jeremiah Road, and Cider Mill.

The young black bear in Newtown most likely is the same bear that state officials tranquilized last month in Shelton and transported to a Newtown forest, Animal Control Officer Carolee Mason confirmed. The sightings have prompted some social media and e-mail activity.

Frank Rohrbacher on May 28 had sent an e-mail shared with The Bee that inquired why the Shelton bear was dropped in Newtown — a question he also posed to First Selectman Pat Llodra, Police Chief Michael Kehoe, and Ms  Mason.

He noted a May 14 posting that appeared online in the Valley Independent Sentinel, called “Shelton Bear Captured While Heading Downtown.”

In his e-mail Mr Rohrbacher stated that neighbors living on the end of Stonebridge Road told him that a bear a day earlier was drinking out of the birdbath in their yard.

“This is unacceptable,” Mr Rohrbacher had written. He questions why the bear was placed on Newtown’s side of the river, “where the bear cannot migrate upstate. Families in Newtown are now affected and Shelton is not,” he wrote.

Mrs Llodra had replied, saying that Ms Mason was “probably the best person,” to respond to his questions.

Newtown Moms Unite Facebook Page member Sandra Madrid was one of several residents in late May to post information about the bear. On May 17 she attached a 50-second video, with the note: “Here’s the video from yesterday’s bear visit on Jeremiah Road. A black bear wanders into view at the edge of a lawn where it had stepped out of a shady, wooded area. After waiting for more than 30 seconds, a man’s voice is heard shouting, ‘hey,’ but rather than running back toward the woods, the bear just looks toward the voice.”

Ms Scarpa, on May 27, posted a photo of a black bear with the comment: “Just saw a medium size bear in my backyard on Gelding Hill. The bear is near a fence and appears to be moving toward a tree and shade.”

Also found on the Newtown Moms Unite page, Great Quarter Road resident Aimee Tabor on May 28 wrote: “Bear cub sighting on Great Quarter Road off Lake Zoar. I was walking the dog this morning and a neighbor driving by warned me he just saw it. Might explain my dog’s weird behavior last week — on a walk at around the same spot, he planted his feet and refused to go further (something he never does on walks).”

On May 30 resident Rhonda Cullens posted the message: “I saw a bear on Founder’s Lane tonight around 7:30. It was heading towards Yogananda.”

She also commented that she was not sure if this was the same bear seen a day earlier on Great Quarter and Stonebridge Roads.

Several residents as of May 28 had also contacted town officials and notified The Bee of their concerns.

Mary Reeds of Cider Mill Roa, sent an e-mail on May 28 indicating some questions she had seen online. Should residents call animal control to report a sighting? Has the bear population really increased or are the bears getting bolder around humans? What should residents do to keep bears out of the yard, and what should people do if they see a bear?

While the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) Sergeant Jeff Samorjczyk could not be reached to respond, Ms Mason, who has spoken with him about the bear, said that the DEEP officials “chose the Newtown forest” for the Shelton bear’s release.

About the bear’s presence and obvious proximity to residences, she said, “People are seeing him, he’s not doing anything wrong, people should not be alarmed. He just needs to find his way out.”

Ms Mason suspects that the bear “woke up confused, but will get his direction right.” She said, “There’s nothing we can do” about his presence, unless he begins to cause a problem.

“If he isn’t causing harm, leave him alone,” she said, adding that the bear is part of the wildlife.

She suggested that homeowners who see the bear should “keep pets inside” as a precaution, and walk dogs on a leash.

“He is looking for food, he’ll be eating bird food, etc,” Ms Mason said. Keep trash and recycleables, birdseed, and grills inside, she advised.

She does not think the bear’s mother is nearby. “I think it’s a young adult on its own and it’s confused, but I think it will find its way.”

Ms Mason recalls the bear photographed peering through a window at The Taunton Press on Main Street early in May. She believes that the bear sighted there “is the same bear,” due to a scar she noted on its back.

While the bear “seems to be heading to the forest,” she said, “if anyone is nervous, I have no problem coming out.”            

Each year she receives calls around this time about bear sightings, she said.

“It’s the time of year. When winter is over they’re out of hibernation and they’re hungry,” said Ms Mason, who recommended keeping food and trash inside, and avoid feeding the bear. “You have to remember: bears don’t know that we’re putting trash out; they come from the woods and find something and think, ‘Good, I can eat this.’”

Residents are encouraged to contact her with questions or concerns at 203-426-6900, Monday through Saturday from 9 am to 3 pm.

Black Bears In Connecticut

According to information on the DEEP website, “glimpsing a bear in Connecticut was once unlikely because bears were extirpated from the state by the mid-1800s. Since then, bears have made a comeback. Their return is due, in part, to the regrowth of forestland throughout the region following the abandonment of farms during the late 1800s.

“Beginning in the 1980s, the DEP Wildlife Division had evidence of a resident black bear population. Since then, annual sighting reports have increased dramatically, indicating a rapid increase in the bear population. With the number of bears increasing in the state, it is important for residents to learn the facts about black bears and how to coexist with them.

“Black bear habitat is forestland, usually with deciduous and coniferous trees, as well as streams, swamps, and rock ledges. Bears prefer areas with thick understory vegetation and abundant food resources. Mature forests provide soft and hard mast (e.g., acorns) in late summer and fall. Wetlands are particularly important in spring when emerging plants are one of the few available foods. Bears are omnivorous; they eat grasses, forbs, fruits, nuts, and berries. They also will seek insects (particularly ants and bees), scavenge carrion, and raid birdfeeders and garbage cans. Bears occasionally will prey on small mammals, deer, and livestock.

“As Connecticut’s bear population continues to increase, more bears, particularly young bears, will be seen near residential areas. The DEEP’s response will depend on the specifics of each bear situation. The mere presence of a bear does not necessitate its removal. In most cases, if left alone, the bear will make its way to a more natural habitat.

“Much of Connecticut’s landscape is now forested and is suitable for black bears. The rapid increase in the bear population between the 1980s and early 2000s is expected to continue. As the bear population expands, interactions between humans and bears will increase. People should learn what to do if they see a bear and how to avoid unnecessary conflicts by keeping food away from bears,” the website states.

Report bear sightings to the DEEP Wildlife Division, 860-675-8130. 

Sandy Hook resident Anne Scarpa was able to get a photo of a black bear perusing her yard for something to eat on May 26. 
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