Black bear spotted once again in Weston

By Brian MacQuarrie
Globe Staff / June 1, 2011

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Kirk Bobkowski adjusted his work boots yesterday morning, getting ready to clear dead trees near a Weston onramp to the Massachusetts Turnpike. Suddenly, a black bear ran across the street.

“I grabbed my uncle, and we followed it,’’ said Bobkowski, 18, of Holden. “The bear was running through backyards, into swing sets, just fast enough we weren’t able to catch up with it.’’

The bear, which Bobkowski said “was more scared of us then we were of it,’’ is believed to have been spotted at least four times this week, foraging, walking around Weston, and generally making a quick exit when spotted by humans.

Although the animal is not considered a threat, police said they have notified residents by phone of the sightings. A black bear was reported Monday near the Wayland town line in Weston and then near Waltham and twice yesterday near the pike.

“We advised residents that, like any other wild animal, don’t approach it, keep dogs under control, don’t feed it, and contact police,’’ Weston police Lieutenant John Lyons said.

The bear, which has not menaced anyone, is probably a young male who has been ousted from its mother’s den and is foraging on its own for the first time, state wildlife officials said. From a low of 100 black bears in the 1970s, Massachusetts now is estimated to have more than 3,000, with a range expanding east and south to include Worcester and northern Middlesex counties.

“While we urge residents not to panic, we do suggest you use caution when walking in or near wooded areas,’’ Police Chief Steven Shaw said in his message. “Eliminate outdoor food sources at your home, secure trash cans, take in bird feeders, and remove anything else that might be considered an attraction for a foraging animal.’’

Alison Braunstein, who lives near the Route 30 location of one sighting, expressed concern.

“Oh, my goodness, the poor bear would never have a chance here,’’ she said about the traffic on the turnpike. “I really love animals. I hope they don’t hurt it.’’

Black bears have also been sighted since Sunday in Wayland and Sudbury. Last Wednesday, an aggressive black bear that is believed to have injured a woman from Center Harbor, N.H., was shot and killed in her neighborhood by a state wildlife officer.

Massachusetts wildlife officials said black bears are naturally fearful of humans, but they can lose their jitters if they are fed by people, find food in bird feeders or uncovered trash, and gradually become accustomed to foraging near homes.

Although the Weston bear is not considered a threat, Lyons said, police have cautioned day-care centers, schools, and businesses in town. The Massachusetts Environmental Police have a team that can trap and tranquilize large animals, and they have been notified in case the bear becomes belligerent.

Such measures are rare, said biologist Marion Larson, a spokeswoman for the state Division of Fisheries and Wildlife. “The best thing to do for this bear is to leave it alone,’’ Larson said. “Make loud noises and the like.’’

Only a handful of black bears are immobilized and relocated each year as an option of last resort, Larson said. Two years ago, a bear that entered a Massachusetts campground was killed.

The number of black bears in the state has increased 8 to 13 percent a year, the litters are becoming bigger, and not all bears are hibernating, Larson said.

“Like any other wild animal, it’s all about food,’’ Larson said. “We have good habitat, and bears are learning that there are natural sources of food.’’

MacQuarrie can be reached at