TOWNSEND -- It's that time of year again. There is not much food on the ground and skinny bears are hungry after a long winter hibernation.
Like anyone else, they would prefer to take the easy way out. For them, a bird feeder or two and some nicely aged crabapples are basically a bear buffet.
With its large amount of wooded land, Townsend is home to many bears. They have learned that yards are good sources of food.
One bruin found some pretty good munchies in the backyard of the Coolidge home on Dudley Road April 29. Lorna Coolidge found the animal tearing into a bird feeder while she was waiting for her child to come home from school.
"I came outside and saw this black thing with my bird feeder," she said. The bear was on a small hill in the back of the yard, not far from the house.
Panicked, she called 911, only to find out the police do not respond to calls about bears. "The woman was very nice," Coolidge said, and suggested calling the animal control officer.
By the time she got Mary Letourneau, the ACO on the phone, the bear was history. "I screamed and yelled at the bear and it was gone," Coolidge said.
Making loud noises to scare the animal away is the best thing to do, Letourneau said. An air horn, a loud radio or banging on pots and pans will discourage the unwanted visitor.
"They're just wandering. They don't want to be approached," she said.
Worcester Road resident Jane O'Hara was disappointed when her early-morning visitor just kept wandering past.
She spotted the bear just feet away. "It looked at me and ambled right on by," she said, "I saw him and went, 'Wow. Hello.'"
She went to get her camera but the bear was on the move. When she returned, it was heading out towards the railroad tracks.
A bear that has found some good eating will remember the spot and return periodically for years to check it out, Letourneau said. The best thing to do to prevent wandering bears is to keep attractive food sources out of the yard.
Bird feeders, filled with high-calorie nutritious bear food, should be taken in by March 1. Keep the grease trap in the outside grill clean.
No rubbish should be left where a bear can get into it. Even a collection of soda cans, filled with sweet leftovers, can attract a bear. Rotting fruit, dropped on the ground under a tree the previous season, is tasty too.
People who keep beehives often install electric fencing to keep the yard bear-free. Even then, the bear needs to touch the fence with its nose or mouth in order to be discouraged.
Bear sightings in the Dudley Road area are common, Letourneau said. Every year, a bear is spotted near the Squannacook School. Just the other day, she found bear feces in the corner of the newly renovated basketball court near Hawthorne Brook Middle School.
"It's just that time of year. There's not much to eat until the grubs start to hatch out," she said. "Just try to avoid them."