Holyoke, MA

The black bears of the Holyoke Highlands

Jayne B. Stearns

Earlier this month, there was another black bear sighting in the Holyoke Highlands area. This wasn’t just another sighting similar to the frequent ones seen of a momma bear and her cubs parading across the streets in search of less populated ground. This bear had somehow got itself inside one women’s cast-iron fenced-in back yard and taken down her recently refilled bird feeder, looking for the seed treats within it. It stayed there for at least 30 minutes until she came out and made noises loud enough to scare it back over her fence and down into the dingle.

These sightings have almost become a weekly occurrence in the Holyoke Highlands and they’ll probably continue until these animals are lulled into hibernation for the winter in just a few more weeks. Right now they’re hunting, actually over-feeding themselves to prepare for that deep state of decreased metabolism, so use caution.

Bears are omnivores, eating both vegetation and meat. In the summer they may find your strawberry patch just as tasty as the grease on your grill. Keep this in mind when bear-proofing your property year-round.

Tips to bear-proof your yard:

  • This may sound obvious to some, but DO NOT feed the bears or leave food out for them.
  • DO NOT feed your pets outside. Bears have a keen sense of smell and they’ll think they’ve been invited to dinner at your house.
  • If you compost, DO NOT keep your bin open.
  • DO NOT leave trash bags out and uncovered. Store them in a secure building or container, then take your trash to the road the morning of pick up.
  • DO NOT feed the birds. This is a difficult one for the bird lovers among us, but suet and spilled birdseed is a bear buffet.
  • Make sure your barbeque grills are clean, including the grease traps underneath.

What to do if a bear comes into your yard

This may sound counterintuitive, but the first thing you should do is HARASS the bear - bang pots and pans together. Loudly! Holler! Blow a whistle! But, do not get close.

Once the bear is out, remove whatever food source attracted it.

Remember, bears will usually leave on their own. They do not look for conflict, only food. Remove the food source and you shouldn't have a problem.

Soon they'll be bedding down for a long winter's nap.

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Source: https://www.mass.gov/service-details/learn-about-black-bears

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Jayne is a freelance writer, published poet, and award-winning playwright who specializes in writing human interest stories and anything else that satisfies a multitude of curiosities.

Holyoke, MA
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