After Bear B-1 charged a house on County Road in North Madison Tuesday, a report from the local animal control officer to the state Department of Energy & Environmental Protection has prompted state wildlife officials to set a trap for the bear.
Madison 911 is warning North Madison residents to use caution. "Bear activity reported-County Road & Summer Hill. Do not approach the bear. Remove bird feeders and other attractants."
State Wildlife Biologist Paul Rego said Tuesday that the state plans to set a trap for the bear Tuesday. If she is caught, the state will determine whether to engage in "adverse conditioning" with the bear, in an effort to instill a fear of humans in her. Or, if after reviewing incidents involving the bear, they determine that she is a danger, she will be euthanized, Rego said.
"This bear seemed to do more than" bluff
Rego said it appears from the video that Bear B-1 charged the house in North Madison after the homeowner tried to shoo it away. "Sometimes a bear will bluff charge when they feel threatened," he said. "This bear seemed to do more than that."
A homeowner who lives on Genesee Lane, said he was charged by the bear over the weekend.
"I walked out [into my backyard], not realizing the bear was still there," he said. "She took about three quick steps in my direction, and I went scrambling back into the house. A bluff charge, but scary."
Trying to shoo it away, when it charged house
A homeowner who lives on County Road, said he had an encounter with Bear B-1 Tuesday.
"I was trying to shoo it away and started filming it out my window and it actually attacked the house," he said. "Luckily I shut the window in time. I've alerted the town and the DEP is going to trap and relocate it."
Rego said the DEEP does not relocate bears "in the classic sense."
Trap will be set for the bear, adverse conditioning possible
"We are going to set a trap for the bear," he said. "Then we will have to review all of the information. We do not relocate in the classic sense. If we capture the bear--and there is no guarantee that we will--we may put it through aversive conditioning and relocate it less than ten miles away."
He said the goal would be to instill a fear of humans in Bear B-1, who has been staking out lawn parties, swimming in backyard pools, and tearing down bird feeders in North Madison. State officials think she is a yearling, meaning that she is not yet breeding, and that she has been ranging over a large section of the southern portion of the state. She was tagged in Windsor about a year and a half ago.
Aversive conditioning is "putting the bear through an unpleasant experience with the hope that she will become shy of humans," Rego said.
Options depend on level of problem, type of problems
"Other options depend on the level of problems and type of problems," he said. "One option is to euthanize the bear."
In order to determine whether averse conditioning or euthanizing is the better option, state wildlife officials will review the available information on the bear, he said. "We have to review the complaints," Rego said.
He said Bear B-1 was not being playful when she rushed the house, as shown in the video.
"There is no guarantee that we will capture her today"
"Sometimes they will bluff charge when they feel threatened. This bear seemed to do more than that. We are going to set the trap today. There is no guarantee that we will capture her today," he said.
The North Madison neighborhood where Bear B-1 has settled is heavily wooded, with acres of uninhabited water company property adjacent to neighborhoods full of beautiful homes with tidy front yards and back yards built for outdoor fun, many of them with outdoor patios, hammocks, and some with pools.
The homeowner who videotaped the bear, who lives on County Road with his wife, two children anda dog, said they felt bad when they learned that the bear might have to be reconditioned and relocated and/or euthanized. They said they felt an obligation to report the incident to the Madison Police Department, which is what the state recommends when someone has an encounter with a bear.
"We'd feel horrible if something happened and we didn't report it"
"I do feel bad for her too but it seems like she's getting closer, and closer and closer and more and more comfortable with people," the homeower on County Road said Tuesday evening, working in her kitchen while helping her children with their homework. "God forbid it'd end up in someones yard with their kids. We'd feel horrible if something happened and we didn't report it."
The homeowner on County Road who was working from home Tuesday in his dining room, said he decided to videotape the bear on a whim, after seeing it pass by the window and then explore the yard about 20 to 25 feet away from the window in the room where he was working.
The homeowner on County Road has done a lot of camping and is familiar with bears. He knows that most bears will leave when they detect the presence of a human, or are shooed away by a loud noise. "When you're camping, you're lucky to see a bear, they're so shy," he said. He said he knows one woman in Burlington who has a bear visit her driveway every morning. Every morning she has to blow the car horn. Every morning it scares the bear away.
"She made it form the shed to the house in milliseconds"
And so he wasn't particularly worried about the bear and assumed it would saunter off when it heard his voice. Instead, the bear covered the distance between the shed and the house in seconds, he said, leaping over a willowy, five-foot lilac bush to reach the window where he was standing. "She seemed like she was going about 30 miles per hour and jumped over that lilac like it was a twig," he said. "She made it from the shed to the house in milliseconds. If I had kept taking the video, she would have had my arm."
"If I didn't close the window, I'm sure she would have come in," he said. "That thing moved so fast, I slammed the window on her nose."
He said someone later told him that bears who bluff charge will stop five to 10 feet away. "You're supposed to stand your ground when they're charging," he said. "They're supposed to stop. But she did not. This was not a bluff charge."
"This one does not act like other bears"
The homeowner said he and his family loves nature and loves seeing wild animals. The neighborhood in past years has tolerated visits from many bears in past years, including a 500-lb bear that frequented the area last year. But it would leave when humans showed up.
"I've never been afraid of bears and I'm still not really," he said. "I'd hate to see it relocated. But this one does not act like other bears. It has gotten used to humans."
The homeowner said he and his family are not afraid to go outside and indeed, when they received a visitor Tuesday evening who called from the driveway to let them know she was there, the homeowner came out to walk her inside. He said he will still take his dog for a walk, but plans to take an air horn when he does. He said the air horn was not nearby and handy Tuesday afternoon, since he did not expect to see it from his house.
"The police were great"
He said he has a shotgun, but that it has a trigger lock, he's not sure it works and, anyway, he would never be so foolish as to shoot a bear with a shotgun, "because then you'd just have a furious wounded bear."
The homeowner on County Road said when he called 911 that the Madison police dispatched Animal Control Officer Fran Fellows, and that she arrived in what seemed like minutes.
"The police were great," he said. "After she saw the video, she said 'that's unusual.'"
"This is not at all what I expected"
The homeowner said another officer arrived at the house shortly after Fellows. The call to the state DEEP was made by Madison animal control, Rego said.
The homeowner said Fellows told them that the town had received another report from someone who was putting their trash out, and "she stood up on her hind legs and growled."
"I'd hate to have her killed," he said. "This is not at all what I expected."
Editor's note: This story was edited Sunday, Sept. 2, 2012 to remove the names of the homeowners who reported the bear's aggressive behavior to the police.