For Immediate Release - June 12, 2012

State Wildlife Officials Report on Cape Cod Bear Capture and Relocation

Photo of bear

BOSTON – Tuesday, June 12, 2012 – Officials from the Massachusetts Department of Fish and Game’s Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (MassWildlife) and the Massachusetts Environmental Police reported today about the capture and relocation of a black bear that was first spotted on Cape Cod in Plymouth on May 24.

Because the bear on Cape Cod was in a downtown Provincetown location over the weekend, and people were actively seeking the animal in narrow geographic area (severely limiting the bear’s options for movement), wildlife officials were concerned for the safety of both the bear and people.  After receiving a tip from residents reporting a bear sighting in the area, the Environmental Police from the interagency Large Animal Response Team began a search for the black bear in Wellfleet at 5 p.m. yesterday, June 11.

Following established protocol, when there is a public nuisance or safety threat, in coordination with MassWildlife, Environmental Police Officers were able to dart the bear with a tranquilizer in a residential area on Gull Pond Road in Wellfleet. By 9 p.m. last night the young male bear (2 ½ - 3 years old) weighing approximately 180 pounds, was transported and released by MassWildlife biologists to within the range of other bears in Central Massachusetts. MassWildlife biologists and Environmental Police monitored the bear overnight and reported the bear in good condition. MassWildlife biologists ear-tagged the bear for identification purposes.

Cape Cod Black Bear Background

Following the first sighting, the bear travelled the length of Cape Cod to Provincetown. The bear’s presence created excitement and questions from citizens, media, and municipal officials. 

Biologists from the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (DFW) believe this is the same bear which appeared in southeastern Massachusetts last spring and travelled through a number of communities as far south as Acushnet before moving back into the Middleborough area for the winter of 2011. This bear traveled many miles to find a new territory last year after being driven away by its mother. 

In May of 2012, the bear had been observed near a chicken coop in Middleborough and a few days later reported in the South Plymouth area. It is likely that the bear swam across the Cape Cod Canal.

Black Bear Facts

While a bear on Cape Cod is a new experience for residents and communities, black bears are adaptable and known to co-exist with people in suburban areas of Massachusetts. The statewide population of bears last estimated in 2005 is 3,000 animals. The core range of the bear population in Massachusetts includes Worcester County, northern Middlesex County and west to the Berkshires. The black bear population has been slowly growing and expanding its range into eastern and southeastern Massachusetts. As the bear population expands and moves eastward, it likely that the presence of black bears on Cape Cod may occur again the future. It is possible that the Cape Cod bear may travel back to southeastern Massachusetts.

Black bears are wary of people and their first response is to flee from any perceived threat. Bears can be appreciated at a distance, but should be left alone. It is important that residents do not intentionally or unintentionally feed bears. Residents should bring in birdfeeders, secure trash in an enclosed shed or building, clean up after picnics or barbeques, and remove any other potential food sources.  More detailed information about black bears can be found on the DFW website at: http://www.mass.gov/eea/agencies/dfg/dfw/fish-wildlife-plants/mammals/black-bear-mass.html

Interagency Large Animal Response Team

The Division of Fisheries and Wildlife and the Environmental Police have an interagency Large Animal Response Team (LART) to respond to situations where bear and moose are posing a public safety threat.  The team members consist of DFW biologists and Environmental Police Officers with specific training in chemical immobilization of large animals.  

There are four options available to ensure public safety and the welfare of the animal when dealing with suburban or urban large animal response: 

  1. Keeping tabs on the animal from a distance or monitoring on-site is often all that is needed to allow the bear to move on. Usually the job becomes more public relations than public safety as officers try to keep people away from the bear.
  2. Trying to encourage the bear to go in a specific direction by using hazing techniques.
  3. Chemical immobilants (tranquilizers) may be used if the situation warrants this action. Trained staff from MassWildlife and/or the Environmental Police will exercise this option.  

The last resort, when an immediate threat to public safety exists and chemical immobilization is not appropriate, is to euthanize the bear. This option is rarely implemented and is coordinated with MassWildlife or the Environmental Police.

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