Government Lifestyle

Bear Crashes 2-Year-Old’s Birthday Party in West Hartford Backyard

Bear at a West Hartford 2-year-old's birthday party. Courtesy screenshot

Several dozen people were enjoying a birthday party in a West Hartford backyard on Sept. 4, when a bear made an uninvited appearance.

By Ronni Newton

Rauf Majidian, along with about two dozen family members and friends, were enjoying his 2-year-old son’s birthday party on Sunday afternoon, when a large, furry, and very much uninvited guest arrived on the scene.

“We were in the backyard,” Majidian said. Children were running around and there was music– a Disney playlist – and the “Bear Necessities” was actually the song being played.

The home, near Fernridge Park and Braeburn School, isn’t in the middle of the woods, and doesn’t have an extremely large yard, but one of the guests, who was sitting near the edge of the property at a picnic table, suddenly felt a presence behind her.

She was being sniffed at by a bear, Majidian said. The guest ran away quickly, yelling to the rest of the group to get out of the way. Many ran into the garage, while loudly and sternly yelling “Go away, bear!” he said, but the bear remained unfazed.

Majidian’s wife got into her car and honked the horn. That scared away a second bear which was spotted across the street, but the original bear was undeterred, and proceeded to gorge itself on all of the cupcakes, drooling bear saliva all over the party bags at the same time. It stayed for at least 15-20 minutes while the party guests watched from inside the house.

The bear, captured on video, did not have a tag.

“We know there are bears,” said Majidian. The family has lived in the same house for six years, and often spots bears early in the morning checking out trash bins. Last year there were cubs sighted in the area, and they are now wondering if the two bears seen Sunday might be the same bears.

The Majdians were heading out for a walk on Thursday evening with their two young kids, and before they left their yard they saw some bears two doors down. They went right back inside.

Majidian said their yard, which is not fenced, seems to be a popular route for the bears, and they seem to leave the yard at the same place.

They called the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection’s (DEEP), but it was Sunday afternoon and they weren’t given much guidance. They were told the bear had smelled their food, but Majidian said other than cupcakes and some other food for the party they don’t often have food outside. They weren’t grilling, they don’t have bird feeders or anything else that would attract bears.

The family wants to be able to go outside in their own yard, and wants some guidance. Making as much noise as possible to scare the bear away and make the experience unpleasant for the bear is essentially the best they can do.

Paul Copleman, Media Relations manager for DEEP, told We-Ha.com in an email that the “best way to learn to live with black bears safely is to become more Bear Aware. We encourage residents to visit DEEP’s Living with Black Bear web page or to visit www.bearwise.org for tips on what to do if you see a bear. In situations like the one you’re described, it is important to make lots of noise and yell at the bear.”

On July 31 a bear charged through a screen door and entered the kitchen of a home in West Hartford’s Norfeldt neighborhood, helping itself to a bag of marshmallows and peanut butter crackers before being discovered and scared away by the homeowner, who had been doing yard work. That bear, which had previously entered the garage of the same residence and broke open a refrigerator to consume its contents, returned the next morning and tried unsuccessfully to get back into the home. DEEP set a trap, but the bear did not take the bait (doughnuts) and was not captured.

“DEEP believes that addressing the habituation and food conditioning of black bears, both intentionally and unintentionally, is an important component of reducing bear-human interactions and public safety concerns,” Copleman said. “While we have an extremely active public education campaign to highlight the importance of being Bear Aware and preventing easy access to human-associated food, education alone has not solved the problem.”

West Hartford Animal Control (860-570-8818) previously shared the following advice in a Facebook post:

If a bear is in a densely populated area, contact the DEEP Wildlife Division (860-424-3011, Monday-Friday, 8:30 AM-4:30 PM) or DEEP Dispatch (860-424-3333, 24 hours) to report the sighting and obtain advice. The mere presence of a bear does not necessitate a problem. The department attempts to monitor bear activity in developed areas in coordination with local public safety officials. Coordination and cooperation with officials on the scene and local police officials is a key, critical ingredient in educating the public and assuring a safe, desirable outcome in such a situation.

What Should I Do if I See a Black Bear in My Yard?

If you see a black bear in your yard, enjoy the sighting from a distance and report your sighting. However, be sure you are not doing anything to attract the bear to your yard. Attempt to scare the bear off by making noise, such as banging pots and pans, shouting or using an air horn or whistle. Once the bear has left the area, take a close look at your yard for potential bear food sources, such as birdfeeders, pet food, dirty barbecue grills, open compost, or trash, and REMOVE those food sources IMMEDIATELY. Bears have incredible long-term memory and will revisit places where they have found food, even months or years later. Bears that are frequently fed, either intentionally or unintentionally through birdfeeders or garbage, may become habituated and lose their fear of people. If a bear behaves in a way that is a threat to public safety, it may have to be euthanized by the department.

When Can I Put Out Bird Feeders?

If you choose to put out bird feeders, do so in the winter months from December through late-March when bears are in their dens. Although most bears enter dens at some point, some can remain active for portions of or the entire winter season if food is available. It is important that you remove bird feeders at the first sign of bear activity.

If you live in an area with bears, it is best to avoid bird feeders altogether. Bears that find bird feeders will often repeatedly visit the site in search of food day after day and year after year. Bird feeders and other bird food will attract bears closer to homes and humans. When bears begin to use human-associated food sources, they will frequent residential areas, lose their fear of humans, and not flee when harassed. They can even cause damage by breaking into outbuildings and homes in search of food.

For those who enjoy watching birds, establish native plants in your yard and add water features to attract birds. These methods may increase bird diversity and prevent unnatural feeding of a variety of wildlife species. Learn how you can bring wildlife to your yard with native landscaping.

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