The mild New England winter means that more bears are up and about, looking for food — and not just in the woods. They’re also exploring urban backyards and residential streets. The small town of Northampton, Mass., has more than its share of furry visitors.
In Northampton, a call on a neighborhood email list for tales of recent bear encounters netted about about a dozen responses in an hour. Almost everyone, it seems, has a bear story.
"I was weeding by the side of our driveway, middle of a summer day, and a huge — must’ve been a male — literally walked by within a couple feet of me," one neighbor says.
"And I screamed at Joan, ‘There’s a bear!’ really loud, but of course, she couldn’t hear me because she’s, you know, bopping away under the headphones," recounts another.
How did Northampton get to this point? It’s a college town full of restaurants, clothing stores and art galleries. Not exactly wilderness.
But it’s flanked by rural, wooded and swampy areas that black bears love — and they don’t have far to go for easy meals. They eat from the Dumpsters, the bird feeders and the compost bins.