Norfolk County

Franklin a-buzz with black bear sightings

FRANKLIN, Mass. — Ken Schmauder has lived on Hunters Run for 30 years — and seen his share of forest creatures. But until Monday morning, he’d never seen a bear in the neighborhood.

“I was out cutting the grass this morning and coming this way,” Schmauder said. “And I saw the bear coming around the other side of my neighbor’s house.”

Schmauder watched as the bear crossed the street and into another neighbor’s yard, next door.

“I knew she was outside working, so I went around the back and warned her that there was a bear,” he said.

That neighbor was Kim Barry. Seconds later, she was standing 15 feet from the bear — who was also standing on his hind legs and devouring the contents of her bird feeder.

“The dog starts barking, mayhem ensues and the bear disappears back there,” said Barry. “But not before taking down the bird feeder.”

Barry said she wasn’t afraid of the bear at that moment — but... “After I had time to think about it, I was,” she said. “But it was just so shocking and the neighbors were out — and everyone was just in shock.”

This black bear is apparently shocking many in Franklin — judging from the array of Facebook posts he’s in. Kyle Thebado’s “bear shock” came Monday morning outside the gym he owns on Grove Street, Mass Strength.

“I heard a couple of branches breaking,” he said. “Which is not an unfamiliar sound around here, but it sounded different.”

Thebado looked to a corner of his parking lot and there, behind the tree, was the bear.

Concerned about his Chocolate Lab, Tank’s, reaction, Thebado closed the two garage doors that make up one wall of his gym.

“He walked right across the parking lot and then ran into the woods right across,” Thebado said. “It kind of looked confused. Trying to find its own home.”

In fact, that’s exactly what many black bears are doing this time of year, said Dave Wattles, a biologist with the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife who specializes in black bears and fur-bearing animals.

“It’s typically young males that are dispersing out of established range and into Southeast Massachusetts,” Wattles said. Franklin is possibly a geographical corridor for those wandering young males, he added.

But why are these bears on the move?

“Essentially our bear population is growing and so young males can’t compete for mates with established males in our established bear range, so they are pushing out trying to establish territory for themselves where they can compete,” said Wattles.

This migration also coincides with the peak of mating season next month. So this becomes the time of year wildlife biologists in the Northeast take lots of calls about black bear sightings.

Franklin Police are also taking plenty of calls. But there are no plans to tranquilize, remove or even kill the bear. A dispatcher tells Boston 25 News there is no reason to intervene because the bear is in its natural habitat — one it is now sharing with houses, roadways, cars, and, of course, people.

Wattles said black bears are typically not aggressive — unlike brown bears, which populate the Western U.S. Still, he advises giving them space as they search for a new home.

“But enjoy the sighting,” he said. “It’s relatively uncommon to see a bear in these portions of Eastern Massachusetts.”

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