When I tell people that I live in Winsted, they immediately think I'm way out in the woods...or on a farm. Those who know the town understand that while it's surrounded by the wooded foothills of the Berkshires, many of our neighborhoods are tightly clustered colonial and victorian-era homes.
We have plenty of trees, but the woods are at least a quarter-mile away. So, while we're used to raccoons, skunks and possums, we'd never really thought backyard bears were a possibility. Until this week.
As reported in the Torrington Register Citizen, a wandering black bear made his way from the vicinity of the grade school down the street (yikes!) all the way into our backyard, knocked over our garbage can, and scurried up a tree.
There, DEP Wildlife officials were able to tranquilize him with something called a "jab-stick," and he gently slid down the tree to be taken away. Paul Rego, the DEP biologist - and state bear expert - told me it was the second time they'd "handled" this bear since early June. When they first got him, he only weighed about 155 pounds - this week, he was pushing 250. Rego said that makes him about three years old. Having known a few people whose encounters have been full-size bears standing at their back doors, I guess we were pretty lucky with this "little" guy.
He told me that it is rare to have a black bear show up in this kind of neighborhood, but he's been spotted several times on the outskirts of town. This following several reports over the last few months of increased bear activity in Winsted.
When I asked where the bear would be relocated to, Rego told me it would be just down the street at American Legion State Forest in Barkhamsted. "Doesn't that mean he'll just come back?" I asked.
Rego told me that black bears can make a "home" and find it from as far away as 50 miles. So, it wouldn't matter if he'd been given a pass to a beach on the shoreline...there's nothing to say he wouldn't find my garbage can again.
In case you're wondering, Rego says they've had to "handle" bears about 12 times this year - and that number's been climbing. The DEP has a good web page that tracks the number of bear sightings in the state - our neighbors in Canton currently have the most, with 127.