Bears from Orono tree den still active, getting bigger

Back in March, during the Eastern Maine Sportsman’s Show, I told you about four bears that were found inside a hollow tree on Stillwater Avenue in Orono.

The bears were discovered by the homeowner’s pal, who had been practicing archery and was looking for an errant arrow.

Turns out the archery target was right next to the den, a rotted, hollow tree.

Back in March, neighbors told me they’d been seeing the mother bear and her three cubs through the previous spring and summer. One local resident told me that a neighbor leaves food for the bears, which could be expected to tromp past his house at the same time every day, bound for the snacks they knew would be scattered a few hundred yards away.

Last week I received an email from Orono resident Bucky Owen, who had an update on the bears, and a couple of photos to share.

As you might expect, the bears are getting bigger, and they were already pretty hefty when Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife biologist Randy Cross and his crew visited them in March. In fact, those yearling bears weighed 77, 87 and 97 pounds. The 97-pounder was the largest yearling Cross had weighed at a den in more than 30 years of bear research.

Owen, a longtime professor of wildlife at the University of Maine and the former commissioner of the DIF&W, said the bears have been caught on camera in different spots this spring.

A mother bear and her three cubs visit a home on Forest Avenue in Orono recently. The bears were found in a den in a hollow tree in March. (Photo by Patricia Hinds)

A mother bear and her three cubs visit a home on Forest Avenue in Orono recently. The bears were found in a den in a hollow tree in March. (Photo by Patricia Hinds)

“Attached are two pictures of the four bears captured and tagged last winter near Stillwater and Forest Avenues,” Owen wrote in his email. “The first picture was taken Friday, [May 9] at Jim and Pat Hinds’ house on Forest Avenue, about a quarter mile south of the Orono Dump Road. They were after his suet feeder, which he had forgotten to bring in. You can easily see the ear tags the state folks placed on the bears.

“The second picture [my wife] Sue and I took at Dirigo Pines on Kelly Road [on May 13],” he wrote. “Again, they were checking out the location of our bird feeders. Two weeks ago a bear(s) destroyed a number of feeders here at Dirigo but it was at night and nobody saw them.”

Owen echoed the sentiments that Cross shared back in March: The fact that the bears associate homes with food, and continually find food at the homes they visit, isn’t good news for the bears.

Four bears visit Dirigo Pines on Kelly Road recently. (Photo courtesy of Bucky and Sue Owen)

Four bears visit Dirigo Pines on Kelly Road recently. (Photo courtesy of Bucky and Sue Owen)

“These bears have no fear of people and will eventually get into trouble, perhaps even getting run over,” Owen wrote. “It is a good example of why people should not feed wildlife and make them dependent on human resources; in the end, it always turns out badly for the wildlife.”

 

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John Holyoke

About John Holyoke

John Holyoke has been enjoying himself in Maine's great outdoors since he was a kid. Today, he's the Outdoors editor for the BDN, a job that allows him to meet up with Maine outdoors enthusiasts in their natural habitat. The stories he gathers provide fodder for his columns, and this blog.