Garbage day likely lured bear out of Fairfield woods
Published 4:59 pm, Wednesday, July 1, 2015
Those who may have felt recent reports of bears prowling through Fairfield and nearby suburban environs are “garbage” may have been onto something.
But not in the dismissive way they thought. That’s because local animal control officers believe garbage collection day across town last week — and the lure of easily available grub — may have attracted a black bear from woodsier areas in northern Fairfield to more densely developed neighborhoods.
Meanwhile, no new sightings of black bears in town were reported to police over the last week after one was tranquilized and captured when it caused a stir roaming through neighborhoods from Greenfield Hill to Jennings Road.
Vinnie Pennatto, a Fairfield animal control officer, said Wednesday that reports of black bears in town are not unprecedented.
In fact, while the bear was seen at several spots in Fairfield on Thursday of last week, residents of neighboring Westport reported two bear sightings to police in that town the same day.
“We’ve gotten reports of sightings, but mainly up north and they’re not there when we get there,” Pennatto said of other reported bear sightings. “Most of the bear calls I go on are GOA [gone on arrival].” He said in recent years there has been an average of two to three black bear sightings in northern parts of town annually.
The black bear in Fairfield was captured when the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection dispatched a team to Denise Terrace where the animal had climbed a tree in a back yard. It was tranquilized and taken away without incident. There were no injuries.
Pennatto said the black bear that traveled into more highly developed residential areas of town last week may have been prompted to do so because Thursday is the day that many local trash haulers collect residential garbage. “There were thoughts it was garbage day and that’s why it was there — everybody puts out their garbage and bears are looking for food,” he said.
Though an unsettling sight, Pennatto said black bears usually are not aggressive. “From what [DEEP] was telling us they look for food, take it and go but because it was in a residential area there was nowhere for it to go,” he said.
He said a number of local residents last week took pictures of the black bear as it roamed around, “and it wasn’t paying any mind.”
But last week’s black bear made its presence known in dramatic fashion to a woman off High Street, Pennatto said. “At one point I was chasing it and a woman wanted to know why I was there, and it ran right by her,” Pennatto said. “She knew why I was there.”
Pennatto said the black bear was relocated, but added that DEEP would have to confirm where. Calls to DEEP on Wednesday afternoon were not returned.
Several sightings of the bear — officials believe it likely was the same animal — were received June 25 by police throughout that day in neighborhoods ranging from Greenfield Hill to the Jennings/Judd road areas.
The last report of the roaming bear was in a back yard of Denise Terrace home, where the animal had climbed a tree. Police alerted DEEP, which dispatched to a team that tranquilized the bear and removed it from the yard.
No one was hurt during the operation or during the animal’s earlier travels through town. But its unexpected presence in residential neighborhoods did spark concerns.
According to Chief Gary MacNamara, police received several reports of a bear roaming in the area of Congress Street and Hoydens Hill Road around 9:30 a.m. that day, and later in the day behind Fire Station 2 on Jennings Road.
One resident called police to report a black bear had ventured onto the home’s back porch, he said.
Sightings were also reported on North Benson Road, he said, adding they believe the bear may have been making its way down from the more woodsy Greenfield Hill area.
“Obviously, these are roaming animals, but our officers haven’t seen them,” MacNamara had said on the morning of June 25. He said DEEP recommends the bears be left alone and allowed to “roam back into wooded areas.”
People should make sure that all garbage cans are covered and secured.
A Code Red Alert was sent to residents living in areas where bear sightings were reported as a precaution, the chief said.
“Don’t antagonize them. Call us to report the bears,” MacNamara said. Bears were also sighted in the upstate towns of South Windsor and East Windsor on the morning of June 25, eating out of backyard bird feeders. There was also a recent bear sighting in Norwalk.
Westport police on Thursday also issued an alert about bear sightings in that town.
The DEEP recommends people keep their distance from bears, and either slowly walk away or announce their presence by shouting and waving arms.
No one should attempt to feed the bears. and sightings can be reported to 1-860-675-8130.