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Black Bear Sighting in Town

Black Bear Sighting in Town

News that a black bear was passing through town earlier this month travelled nearly as fast as he did as locals called the Selectman’s office and Police Department to report its path.  First Selectman Jim Zeoli assumes it was the same lone bear that residents in the Turkey Hill section of town caught sight of in their neighborhoods.  “Generally it is a young, male bear that has been pushed out of the den and it’s his time to find his own territory,” he said.  A few days later, Milford officials reported a black bear sighting as well.  “I think he was headed to the beach,” Zeoli joked.

Old Coach Road resident Lucian Gagliola saw it running through his backyard after his 93 and 86 year old grandparents first spotted it.  “There was a lot of excitement, they were yelling, ‘you gotta see this!’” Gagliola said.  Later that day, Mark Knobloch and his wife were relaxing with Paul and Emma Sacramone around an outdoor fire pit at their Longmeadow Road home when they spotted the bear along the outskirts of the property.  Sunday morning Orange Volunteer Fireman Rich Williamson was walking the Turkey Hill Preserve trails with his metal detector when he spotted the bear about 60 yards in front of him.  Williamson was probably the most prepared guy to be near a bear’s path.  A hunter safety instructor, he had a sidearm and knew to stay out of its way.  “I think the coyote population in Orange is much scarier.  I saw a pack of three chasing a deer at Wright’s Farm,” he said.  The bear was also seen on Haystack Hill and Cranberry Lane.

Since no one reported the bear rummaging through garbage cans or bird feeders, town officials assume the bear was on the move.  “There were a few days of activity and then it passed,” Zeoli said.  In the last few years Orange has had more and more sightings of wildlife that was once less common in the area, like bobcats, wolves, coyotes and fisher cats.  Zeoli attributes the increase to land that was once open farmland and properties that were subdivided years ago that have reverted back to forest, providing a natural habitat.  “Wildlife is trying to live in harmony with us, they’ve been displaced for years and they’ve learned to adapt,” he said.  “They’re looking for territory of their own.”

Assistant Chief of Police Tony Cuozzo reports that it’s not the first bear that’s come through town, but it is a rare occurrence.  When a bear sighting or wildlife call comes into the station, local patrols are notified and if the animal is discovered, the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) is called in.  “A few years ago we had that mountain lion that was hit on the Merritt Parkway in town,” Cuozzo said.

Zeoli is reaching out to the DEEP to discuss the possibility of holding an informational program for town residents about local wildlife and how man and beast can best co-exist.  “Generally they don’t want to interact with us as much as we don’t want to interact with them.  They have the same fight or flight response that we have,” Cuozzo added.

From the Department of Energy & Environmental Protection

Connecticut residents should take the following simple steps to avoid conflicts and problems with black bears:

Bears Near Your Home

Bears are attracted to garbage, pet food, compost piles, fruit trees, and birdfeeders.

DO remove birdfeeders and bird food from late March through November.

DO eliminate food attractants by placing garbage cans inside a garage or shed.  Add ammonia to trash to make it unpalatable.

DO clean and store grills in a garage or shed after use.  (Propane cylinders should be stored outside.)

DON’T intentionally feed bears.  Bears that become accustomed to finding food near your home may become “problem” bears.

DON’T approach or try to get closer to a bear to get a photo or video.

DON’T leave pet food outside overnight.

DON’T add meat or sweets to a compost pile.

Bears Seen When Hiking Or Camping

Bears normally leave an area once they have sensed a human.  If you see a bear, enjoy it from a distance.  Aggression by bears towards humans is exceptionally rare.

DO make your presence known by making noise while hiking.  Hike in groups.  If you see a bear, make enough noise and wave your arms so the bear is aware of your presence.

DO keep dogs on a leash and under control.  A roaming dog might be perceived as a threat to a bear or its cubs.

DO back away slowly if you surprise a bear nearby.

DON’T approach or try to get closer to a bear to get a photo or video.

DON’T run or climb a tree.  If possible, wait in a vehicle or building until the bear leaves the area.

DO be offensive if the bear approaches you.  Make more noise, wave your arms, and throw objects at the bear.  Black bears rarely attack humans.  If you are attacked, do not play dead.  Fight back with anything available.

DON’T cook food near your tent or store food inside your tent.  Instead, keep food in a secure vehicle or use rope to suspend it between two trees.

By Laura Fantarella – Orange Town News Correspondent

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