Brown bear

Brown bears have become more prevalent in the area.

Bear sightings in Pound Ridge have become more frequent in recent years, but several sightings this year have particular significance.

In addition to the usual reports of solitary bears roaming around, there have been multiple reports of a mother bear with cubs. This, said Budd Veverka, director of land management at Mianus River Gorge, is good news. 

“It’s the first female with first year cubs I’m aware of in this area,” Mr. Veverka told The Record-Review. “That’s a tipping point or turning point we were hoping to see — females breeding in the area.”

Mr. Veverka said conservation groups like MRG are pleased when they see wildlife return to suitable habitats — “and this is suitable habitat,” he said, referring to Pound Ridge. He said such returns are less common in high-density suburbs, so more rural areas with undisturbed wooded sections can be ideal habitats for bears. “So,” he continued, the female with young cubs “should probably stick to the Pound Ridge area.”

When Mianus River Gorge staff conducted a bear study between 2017 and 2019, said Mr. Veverka, they expected to see increased sightings as the bear populations continued to grow. At the time, most of the sightings were of male bears scavenging in the area.

Andrew Morgan, land steward of the Pound Ridge Land Conservancy, was among those who heard a presentation given by Mr. Veverka in January about the MRG study. He was equally enthusiastic about the recent female and cub sightings. “To me, that is exciting,” he said. “From what I’ve heard from some longtimers, it’s been over 40 years since there were females with cubs in the area.”

Mr. Morgan said females with cubs seem to be roaming from the Ward Pound Ridge Reservation boundary through Old Stone Hill, and then over past the Trinity Lakes area and down Siscowit Road. 

“For the most part, they’ve been in some more rural parts, and then travel across the road or through someone’s yard,” he said. “So far I haven’t heard of them getting into trouble.” He did, however, acknowledge a report from PRLC Board President Mike Kagan that one of his neighbor’s chickens had been killed, apparently a victim of a hungry bear.

A social media post July 12 by Alex Spitzer, who said he lives just over the Pound Ridge border in South Salem, told of a similar incident. Mr. Spitzer wrote that he “had a mother and two cubs (possibly the same) rip open my chicken run and kill my three hens. She came back the next morning for leftovers.” To discourage the bear’s return, the South Salem resident said he “Hazed her. Teaching those cubs that type of behavior is not good. It will lead to more problems down the road.”

Police Chief David Ryan recommends following the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation guidelines, which can be found on at dec.ny.gov/animals. The DEC’s main advice is simple: avoid feeding or providing food sources for bears. “Bears are more likely to seek out human food sources in the spring and the summer,” according to the DEC. “Bears must often cross roads and pass through developed areas to find the varied habitat types that produce their seasonal food sources. They often find human foods readily accessible along the way if homeowners do not take necessary precautions.”

Mr. Veverka emphasized the same advice. “The most important thing is to keep the wildlife wild,” he said. “Take down bird feeders on April 1, and don’t put them up again until December 1.” The same tactics can be used to ward off coyotes and bobcats, he said. 

“We’re going to see them all on a regular basis,” he said. “If they do show up, but stick around for more than a minute or two, you need to scare that animal away.”

He said banging some metal together is a good idea. “It’s a sound they’re not used to, and it will scare them off.” He said you can also toss some small rocks “just to keep them thinking, ‘Something bad happened when I saw a human.’” But keep your distance, cautioned Mr. Veverka. “Have something between you and the animal.” 

He noted some wild animals like coyotes are more aggressive toward house pets than a bear would be, so always keep your dogs on a leash, and keep cats indoors, or control them as best as possible.”

Banging metal has not always produced the intended results. When a resident posted to a Pound Ridge Facebook group June 7 about a large bear seen on Barnegat and Kinnicutt roads, another resident commented that the same bear had been hanging around on Dann Farm Road for weeks and was “not scared of loud noises.” That resident reminded people not to forget to close their garage doors and put away their garbage.

The sighting was one of a series that began appearing on social media in April, and have not stopped. One post July 6 included a photo of a bear behind Blind Charlie’s in Scotts Corners. 

Chief Ryan said he first became aware of the mother bear and cubs in a police report from Old Stone Hill Road on June 30. That was followed by another one July 8 from Trinity Pass and Fancher roads, which he said concerned him because the town camp was in session not far away in the Town Park.

“I believe there’s three to five bears wandering around this town in the last few months,” he said. “Years ago, we had one. Now we don’t go two days without bear sightings.”

“We notify DEC of all bear encounters and especially those involving cubs,” said Chief Ryan. “Unfortunately, it is very rare that DEC will relocate a black bear.”

Mr. Morgan said the area already experienced a development boom and “now it’s sort of naturalizing, with a lot of people establishing natural corridors.” That helps explain why there are more suitable bear habitats. 

Mr. Veverka predicted that eventually the bear population will extend south to the Merritt Parkway and west to Interstate 684. “We have to look at their tolerances for housing density,” he said. “We know the population is continuing to increase as it is in areas around the country.” 

He said MRG researchers will probably restart their two-year bear study, including installing cameras. 

There are a number of programs, such as BearSmart, BearWise and BeBearAware, to help citizens learns to coexist with the animals but they are mainly being rolled out in communities further north than Pound Ridge, such as in the Adirondacks, where the bear populations far exceed those seen in this area, according to Mr. Veverka.

Nevertheless, “At some point, we may need to help towns around here devise a plan,” he said.

Jeff Morris is a staff reporter at The Record-Review where he covers the Town of Bedford and the Katonah-Lewisboro School District. Prior to joining the paper he was a reporter and columnist for the Lewisboro Ledger and a business magazine editor.

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