The Small Black Bear

By Amy Miller

I was all set to write about a red-tailed hawk that’s made itself at home in our yard. And then.

And then a black bear ran right in front of my bookbag-carrying kids on their way home from school. It scurried across Paul Street just 100 feet from women working out at Curves, over the lawn of Seacoast Christian Academy, through a Berwick Academy soccer practice and up a tree at the posh private school.

When my 10-year-old son realized he had just seen a black bear, he dropped to the ground in delight.

“I’ve always wanted to see an eagle, a moose and a bear, and now I’ve seen everything except a moose,” said Benjamin, who is checking off his bucket list much younger than most of us.

My neighbor was far less thrilled. “Oh no, now I can’t let my kids outside to play.”

All ‘round town, people were celebrating, panicking or empathizing with the puppy-sized cub as it scuttled about the village.

Meanwhile, Adam Gormely, lieutenant with the Maine warden service at the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, was mainly trying to explain his decision not to send in troops.

Black bears, he said, rarely attack.  He pointed out there are 25,000 bear in Maine – all of them black bear – and he cannot remember one attack on a person.

To those who were particularly worried because this was a baby and the mother might be lurking close behind, Gormely argued that a mother black bear, like deer and many other animals, will let her cub be taken rather than risk her own life. Unlike grizzlies, female black bears do not display the level of protectiveness that leads to an attack on humans.

Although newspapers were reporting and the public was ruing that the game wardens didn’t bother to do anything, Gromley explains that inaction was a well-thought out decision.

“The number one thing we can do to prevent damage is to leave the bear alone,” Gormely said, noting the state will not tranquilize animals during hunting season since the meat from this animal, if caught, will have poison in it for up to 30 days.

“The safest option for a bear cub, for wildlife professionals and even for the public,” Gormely said, “is to leave the animal alone and allow it to return to the wild.”

About the author: Amy Miller is a writer who works in the public affairs office of EPA New England in Boston. She lives in Maine with her husband, two children, seven chickens, two parakeets, dog and a great community.