ENGLEE — A casual observation from an Englee resident earlier this week could be the exact reason at least one bear has been spotted freely running about the Northern Peninsula town recently.
On Tuesday, Sharon Reid speculated a lack of berries due to an unusually hot summer could be why the bears are hungry enough to enter people’s houses in the Roddickton and Englee areas.
Bear attack expert Stephen Herrero said that could be the case.
Herrero holds a doctorate in animal behaviour and ecology and recently penned a book called “Bear Attacks: Their Causes and Avoidance.”
The story broke earlier this week that the Department of Natural Resources has started nightly patrols in Englee looking for a bear, or possibly more than one, that have reportedly been strolling onto people’s properties and, in some cases, into houses looking for food.
Residents in the two towns admit to being afraid for their lives, and Herrero said it’s pure hunger driving the animals.
“It’s not their instinct to approach people, but they also have an instinct to fatten themselves up for their winter hibernation,” he said. “If there aren’t as many berries as there have been in recent years, the bears haven’t eaten as much as they need to, so now they’re looking for those calories.”
Frightened residents said Wednesday they have been barricading themselves inside at night, putting furniture against their doors and windows because they say they have seen bears trying to nose the doors open. One man saw a bear come into his basement and another woman said she had her garbage cans destroyed and siding on her house was smashed.
Herrero told The Western Star that another factor could be that Englee’s dump was recently closed as part of the provincial waste management plan, giving the bears no other food alternative.
“In some places we’ve seen that bears can go to the dumps and find sustenance there, enough for them to hibernate,” he said. “Again, if that was taken away, they have to find those calories somewhere else.”
He added that even though the bears can sometimes seem tame at this time of year, residents need to stay away from them, as they can be extremely dangerous.
A Natural Resources spokesman said there are three live traps in Englee and the patrols will continue.
A recent department news release said residents need to remain calm when in contact with a bear, and back away slowly without running. Eye contact should be avoided and garbage and food should be removed.
Anyone who has spotted a bear should call 709-457-7243.