By John Holyoke
ORONO, Maine — A female adult black bear that is presumed to be one of four bears discovered in a hollow tree very close to a residence in March was successfully trapped Sunday evening and taken to a rural location north of Macwahoc on Monday morning.
The bear, along with several others, had been making regular visits to homes in Orono and Veazie and prompted several complaints from residents over the past few weeks.
Maine Game Warden Jim Fahey said he learned one of two culvert-style traps that had been deployed in Orono — the one at Havasu Pines Trailer Park off Forest Avenue — had been tripped at about 8 p.m. Sunday.
In March, a female bear and her three yearling cubs were found in a den in a hollow tree at the corner of Forest Avenue and Stillwater Avenue. Fahey said the female that was captured on Sunday night had been fitted with identifying ear tags, as the March bears had been, and he said he presumes the bear was the adult female captured at that time.
The bear was trapped about a mile from the den site.
Randy Cross, biologist for the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, will be able to positively identify the bear based on his records. On Monday, he was in the field conducting bear research and was not available to provide the information.
The bear was taken more than 75 air miles, according to DIF&W policy, to southern Aroostook County. Upon her release from the culvert trap, she trotted into the woods and toward a nearby stream, Fahey said.
Fahey said that according to DIF&W’s protocol, bears are not trapped and transported in most instances. Instead, game wardens try to work with homeowners and their neighbors to learn what might be attracting bears. Game wardens try to convince the homeowners to remove attractants such as bird seed, garbage, pet food and greasy barbecue grills.
“Those three yearlings have made such numerous appearances and have been the root of conflict, so we stepped outside of protocol and removed those bears,” Fahey said. “Orono is a densely populated town in places, and there’s a density of bears that the public has deemed is beyond what they want to tolerate. … I don’t want people to think every time there’s a conflict with a bear that this is going to be the department response. This was a special circumstance, and it warranted a special response. I can’t emphasize that enough.”
Last week, Warden Lt. Dan Scott said that the Orono bears had been hand-fed food since last year, and they had learned to seek food near homes. In addition, some residents still refused to stop leaving food for the bears, leaving little chance that the bruins would stop visiting.
Warden Sgt. Alan Gillis and Fahey set the traps last week, and Fahey joined Mike Georgia, animal damage control specialist, to release the bear.
Judy Camuso, the DIF&W’s wildlife division director, said the bears have been drawn to neighborhoods by things such as bird feeders and have been rewarded for those visits.
“We just want people to remember that it’s food that’s available in back yards that habituates bears to back yards,” said Camuso, who drew a distinction between urban bear attractants and the annual practice of baiting bears during hunting season. “Hunters make a huge effort to minimize any human scent at a bait site. Bears are very savvy. When they’re in the woods, the smell of humans is a warning to them.”