Sunday, May 19, 2013
WINTHROP -- Jim Remley lost a flagpole, but he gained one dandy of a story about one determined bear that has been making the rounds at bird feeders and garbage cans across central Maine for the past several weeks.
Jim Remley talks about the bear that recently knocked down a flag pole in his Winthrop backyard. Remley used the pole to raise and lower bird feeders from which the bear was apparently trying to eat..
Staff photo by Joe Phelan
The specifics of Remley's run-in with a bear last week may be unusual, but across the state bears sightings in general are proving unusually common this year. At least one of those wayward bears has made its way to the Augusta area and has been spotted dozens of times since.
"They're looking for food and they're looking for love," said State Biologist Kendall Marden. "They don't know they're not going to find love down here, but they do find food."
The bear that Remley encountered Monday night highlighted to what lengths bears will go to get that food.
Remley and his wife were settling in to sleep about 11 p.m. on May 18. Outside their window, Remley's 30-foot flagpole was festooned with bird delicacies, including suet, a net thistle bag and a feeder. The lowest-hanging food was about 12 feet off the ground.
"I'm hearing this clang, clang, with the clips banging against the metal pole," he said.
The couple first suspected a raccoon trying to reach the bird food, but the noise didn't let up. Meanwhile, their Yorkshire terrier dog was more than a little disturbed.
"I said, 'I have to find out what that is," Remley said.
He stepped out onto the back deck and could not believe his eyes.
"Sure enough, there was a bear standing on its back paws and he was tearing those thistle bags to shreds," Remley said. "He's already done away with the suet."
And, it turned out, the bear had bent the flagpole to a near 45-degree angle to reach the food.
"He bent that pole until it went into a crotch of a birch tree so it wouldn't go down any more,' Remley said. "There is no way you or I could bend it, but he just took that pole and bent it like it was a toothpick."
Remley, hoping to scare it off, got a flashlight. The bear's yellow-eyes shot back.
"He couldn't care less that we were there," Remley said. "He just wanted his food."
Finding food pretty much dominates a bear's time during the summer months, and Winthrop has turned into something of a supermarket for this particular bear, according to District Game Warden Steve Allarie.
He believes this same bear has been spotted in Winthrop at least 15 times in recent weeks. Most of those sightings have occurred in the Route 133/High Street area. Remley lives on Vista Drive, which is off High Street.
"It started showing up in north Augusta in early spring and then Route 17 in Readfield. From there it's gone to Winthrop," Allarie said. "I'm hoping this bear is slowly working its way west into the mountains again."
The state has collected more than 400 bear complaints since January, according to Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife officials. That is more than double the 201 complaints during the same time period last year and nearly the 230 complaints the year before.
Marden said the jump in sightings is because of a growing bear population and the time of year. A bear's natural food -- berries and grubs -- are in short supply in the late spring and early summer.
"They've got to eat six months a year and then they have to stay in the den for six months," Marden said. "They're working pretty hard all summer."
With natural food hard to come by, a bear will sometimes turn up in residential areas, particularly homeowners with an affinity for birds.
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