Liberty and South Road residents threw a tasting party for a black bear yesterday evening.
On the southern end of Liberty Road, Kapil Asher was outside playing in his yard with his two daughters just before 6 p.m. The crew went inside their home close to the Hartwell Town Forest for a break and when Asher and his younger daughter stepped back onto their deck around 6:10 p.m., he was surprised to see a bear 20 yards away casually walking around the yard.
This isn’t the first time Asher, who has lived in Bedford for the past eight years, has seen a bear in town. In 2020, when the family was living in the Winterberry Way neighborhood, he saw a family of bears crossing Carlisle Road in the direction of the Town Compost Center. (The Bedford Citizen has reported on bear sightings a few times in the past.)
This time felt a little different, Asher shared. “I could not believe what I was seeing and it was hard to remain calm.” He continued, “I yelled out to my older daughter to take a look from the window. She came out and the three of us just stood there staring at [the bear] until it went into the backyard of the home two houses down from us.” Asher said the bear was not startled by their presence, and was walking around casually, “cool as a cucumber.”
Twelve houses away at 6:20 p.m., Jason Gould was pulling into his Liberty Road driveway after work and spotted the bear in his path. He phoned his family inside their home, and his wife, Audrey, and one of his daughters watched the animal from their raised deck while Jason stuck to the safety of the car. It was the first time the Goulds had seen a bear in Bedford, and they reported the situation as calm, but they knew to keep their distance.
The bear had pulled a full garbage bag out of their town trash bin that was sitting alongside their house (the family later watched the act on their Ring Camera and shared the video on social media – the Gould’s Ring Camera also recorded a bobcat in January). The bear dragged the garbage bag (scattering their trash through their yard) and sat at the edge of their yard bordering the Town Forest licking the last remains of a Bedford Farms Ice Cream pint container. Audrey Gould said, “It was Heath Bar ice cream, so we are calling the bear Heath.”
Leaving quite a mess in the Gould’s yard to clean up, Heath trekked across South Road. At around 7 p.m. when Harry Drake stepped out of his South Road home to start the chore of filling his many bird feeders, he was surprised to find the bear had beaten him to the metal storage containers securing their bird seed stash. Harry and his wife Mary have lived on South Road since the 1970s and have never seen a bear in Bedford.
“It was unexpected!” reported Mary Drake, who was not scared of the quiet encounter, knowing humans haven’t left many options for animals’ natural territories. She said the family uses bungee cords to secure the lids of the bird seed to successfully keep out the raccoons of the metal storage containers, but “this guy had no problem just popping the lid off!” The bear “dumped the bucket and just sat down enjoying a pile of sunflower seeds” while the couple watched from their screened-in porch.
At one point, the bear heard the two talking and started to amble off, but only got as far as the driveway before the lure of the meal was too good, and the bear returned to enjoy more sunflower seeds. The bear eventually left in the direction of the Minuteman Bikeway through a neighbor’s yard. The Drakes are guessing the bear returned through the night. They found their seed barrels upset again this morning (the bear has a preference for sunflower seeds but also enjoyed a little suet) and they have since moved the seed inside.
While the Ashers are going to wait a few days without seeing a bear before sending the kids outside unsupervised, the Goulds won’t leave their trash bins along the house in the driveway anymore, and the Drakes are limiting filling their birdfeeders, it’s possible they all may need to get used to ursine neighbors. According to a boston.com article in the fall, the number of bears around Massachusetts has been increasing, and their natural territory, historically sticking mostly to western and central parts of the state, is inching eastward.
The species of bear found around Massachusetts is the black bear. They are black in color with a brown muzzle and white patch on their chest. Black bears are one of the smallest bear species found on our continent coming in around four and a half feet in length with males averaging 230 pounds and females averaging 140 pounds.
Mass.gov Department of Fish and Wildlife confirms many of the stereotypes that cartoon characters have taught us about bears. Black bears are omnivores – they aren’t selective to any food group, opportunistically foraging berries, beehives, grasses and small trees, carrion, grubs, and insects and aren’t likely to pass up a picnic basket left out…or a pint of Heath Bar Ice cream or metal tin of sunflower seeds.
While bears habituated to human food sources may be less inclined to scare off, the animals tend to avoid noise. Bears have good eyesight and hearing. They will generally stay unseen or scoot away if they see or hear people coming (yell, clap, bang things together if you see a bear in an area where it really shouldn’t be, and hum a little ditty or tell your dog about your day on trails in the woods to give the bears a chance to stay clear). Take protective measures for your animals, their food, and any produce if you know bears are active in the area: fence in your beehives, chickens, and crops (bears may enjoy corn and fruit trees), and keep dogs on leashes in the woods.
Do not feed bears intentionally. Bringing in birdfeeders, keeping trash receptacles locked up, and cleaning your grill after use are a few ways to not invite a bear to dinner. And as for unintentionally inviting a bear to dessert, there is likely no Bedford Farms Ice Cream flavor that would deter a bear.