A bear that was in a tree on North Quaker Lane in West Hartford for more than 24 hours climbed down on its own and appears to have left the area. [Updated, Sept. 17, 2021]
By Ronni Newton
West Hartford Animal Control Supervisor Helen Lee said Friday morning that the bear which had remained in a tree on North Quaker Lane for more than 24 hours appears to have climbed down on its own overnight.
A resident reported seeing the bear Thursday night, Lee said, and at 7 a.m., when Animal Control check on the bear’s condition, it was gone.
“DEEP was confident the bear just needed a few days to rest and recover,” Lee said. “So far it sounds like it’s going to have a good ending.”
Lee said Animal Control may have more information about the bear’s condition if residents report seeing it in the area.
Bear sightings in West Hartford have become somewhat commonplace over the past several years, but the behavior of a bear that has been perched in a tall pine tree in the backyard of a North Quaker Lane home for more than 24 hours is abnormal, and thus far authorities have been observing it but not taking action to remove it.
West Hartford Animal Control was summoned to the area by neighbors when the bear was first seen walking through yards on North Quaker Lane on Wednesday. Representatives from the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection’s EnCon police and the Wildlife Division have also come to check on the bear.
Throughout the day Thursday, West Hartford Animal Control officers were checking on the bear hourly, and taking photos and video that they shared with DEEP officials.
“It’s not behaving like a normal bear,” Animal Control Officer Kim Gulino said. She said the bear was moving very slowly before it climbed the tree – where it spent the night – and hadn’t moved much since, although it did climb to a higher branch during the day.
The bear is lethargic, doesn’t seem to be able to get comfortable, and while earlier in the day it had its head up, by afternoon it was sprawled across a large branch with its head and all four paws hanging down.
Animal Control Supervisor Helen Lee said the bear is panting heavily. From discussions with DEEP, she believes the bear is a yearling.
“The bear has been in this area for a couple of weeks,” Lee said.
“We’re in constant contact with DEEP,” Lee said, and she urged the community to keep their distance from the bear, which is currently in a tree in the backyard of 178 North Quaker Lane.
“We are still assessing the situation,” Will Healey, a spokesperson for DEEP, said Thursday afternoon. The next step had not been determined, but a wildlife biologist has been contacted and will be going to check on the bear, he said.
The bear is quite high up in the tree, which could make tranquilizing it a challenge, Healey said.
Ironically, the tree where the bear is perched happens to be within sight of the home of DEEP Commissioner Katie Dykes, who spoke with We-Ha.com on Thursday afternoon.
An unusual bear sighting in her neighborhood has created an “intersection of the personal and professional,” Dykes said, and she has been in touch with others at DEEP who have been monitoring the bear. “The community has been seeing bears where they haven’t before,” she said.
“We live in bear country, because we have a bear population that’s expanding our time,” Dykes said.
She said she could not be prouder of the way DEEP and West Hartford Animal Control and police officers have been dealing with this bear.
“I had a bear on my front lawn the Sunday of Labor Day weekend,” said Liz Isaacs, a North Quaker Lane resident who stopped to speak with neighbors who were observing the bear in the tree. She was away that weekend, but said her neighbor sent her a video of it.
North Quaker Lane resident Steve Jewett said he’s had four bear sightings in the neighborhood in the past two weeks.
Jewett is concerned about the increased number of bears in town, particularly in areas like his Morley School neighborhood, where children regularly are playing outdoors.
“The state needs to create a policy to reduce the bear population, or this situation is going to get worse, not better, and that includes considering hunting,” Jewett said. He said he is not personally a hunter, but as the bear population continues to grow, “this is a problem for kids and families in the neighborhood.”
Gordon Binkhorst, who shared a photo his daughter, Sara, had taken of the bear in the tree, said this was the first one he’d actually seen himself, although he’s heard about them from other neighbors.
“It is a challenging situation to make sure the public and the bear are safe,” said Healey. “We have all sorts of situations like this with bears moving into suburban and urban areas.”
Relocating bears is not always the best option, unless there is a public safety issue requiring it. Bears don’t always react well to being relocated, Healey said.
Dykes said that as bears have expanded their territory throughout the state – including areas east of the Connecticut River where they had not often been seen until recently – it’s important for people to know what to do.
“You should not leave any food sources out in the yard,” Dykes said. Bird feeders, or unsecured trash attract bears, and when DEEP teams are called to deal with bears they usually find those types of for sources.
“More communities have to get educated,” Dykes said. “We don’t want the bears to get habituated – to lose that fear of humans. That’s when it gets unsafe.”
When bears know there is a source of easy-to-find, high-calorie food – like food waste and bird seed – they will return to populated areas. “That’s where you run into more serious conflicts,” Dykes said.
While people are fascinated, and excited, when they see a bear up close, attracting them to an area can put both the bears and the humans in danger, she said. “Please do not intentionally feed the bears.”
West Hartford Police Capt. Eric Rocheleau said bear sightings are very common in West Hartford. “Every day we get calls about bears,” he said, even when the bears don’t pose any danger and are in the woods.
While the bear on North Quaker Lane was not behaving normally,”We don’t need to know where they’re walking unless they’re a hazard or potentially dangerous,” Rocheleau said.
Thus far in 2021 there have been 277 bear sightings reported in West Hartford, roughly the same as were reported last year when as of Sept. 16, 2020, 292 bears had been reported to DEEP.
Bears that appear to be aggressive to people should be reported immediately through DEEP’s 24-hour dispatch line at 860-424-3333.
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