Living with bears in Wareham

Feb 16, 2014

"Treat a black bear like it's a 200-pound skunk, not something you want to approach."

That was the advice given by Jason Zimmer, wildlife biologist and district supervisor with the state Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, during a presentation he gave Saturday at the Wareham Library.

A black bear was seen roaming through Marion and Wareham in the summer of 2011, and Zimmer said the bear population in Massachusetts is growing by 8 percent annually.

In his presentation on bears in Southeastern Massachusetts, sponsored by the Wareham Land Trust, Zimmer detailed some simple precautions when encountering black bears in residential areas.

First and foremost is to remove food sources such as trash or compost. "When bears do get here, people are going to learn quickly to get the food sources inside," he said.

Food sources include seemingly innocuous things like bird feeders. One woman in the audience said that, at a friend's house in bear country, a cub climbed onto a second-story deck to get to a bird feeder.

Zimmer said that, if you ever find yourself face to face with a black bear, you should look as big as you can, make a lot of noise, and back away slowly.

He said while attacks are rare, a last resort would be to fight the bear. An adult black bear can grow to 150-200 pounds.

Of the general issue of bears coming into residential areas, "people are concerned because it's something they don't know about," Zimmer said. "Once the message on how to live with bears is out there, they get more comfortable and can actually enjoy the fact that one of the species that was almost eradicated from Massachusetts is recovering."