ANCRAM –This is a story about a young male bear who was born in Connecticut, walked to Poughkeepsie and was taken on a truck ride to Ancram.
For our purposes the story starts in Hartland, CT, in Hartford County, northeast of Winsted, where the bear’s mother was a research bear, according to state Department of Environmental Conservation Region 3 Spokesperson Wendy Rosenbach.
It was in his role as the offspring of a research bear that he first came to the attention of the conservation workers in the Nutmeg State, who fitted him with an orange eartag bearing the number 30, when he was about 1½-years-old.
The eartag came in handy April 27, when the bear, now about 2 ½ years-old and weighing 200 pounds, strolled into the City of Poughkeepsie, likely looking for something to eat. When DEC Region 3 employees saw the tag, they then called their Connecticut counterparts and got the lowdown on him.
At some point between when he was tagged and when he showed up 52.51 miles away in Dutchess County, the bear’s mother evicted him from the comfort of his Connecticut home and insisted that he find his own place in the world. He may have thought Po-town was it, but city residents didn’t send out the welcome wagon. The Poughkeepsie Journal reports that they started calling the cops about the bear at 5 a.m.
By 7:30 a.m. the bear had climbed a tree on Grand Street.
That’s when the DEC stepped in, shot the bear with a tranquilizer, caught him in a net when he got groggy and fell out of the tree, then carted him off to their office in New Paltz. The plan, according to the article, was to return the bear to “the wild” on state park land in northeastern Dutchess County, when he woke up.
But a woman who lives in the Boston Corners area of Ancram and was out for a walk last Wednesday afternoon saw the bear-release entourage, two trucks, one from the DEC, another from the Taconic State Park and a State Police vehicle all on state park land near her house in Columbia County, about a quarter mile north of the Dutchess County line.
The woman, who asked that her name not be used, said she had no idea what the officials were doing just inside the state park gateway along Undermountain Road. Though she said hello to them and passed them three times in the course of her walk up and down the road, there was no conversation, no mention that they were releasing a bear.
In fact, she explained the reason she takes the back and forth walking route is to avoid a neighborhood bear that rummages through garbage left out for pickup by part-time neighbors down the road.
At one point on her walk, the woman was startled to hear two gunshots. She said she didn’t know at the time who would be shooting or why.
She said she walked to the nearby golf course and someone there told her they had seen a DEC vehicle with a bear cage in the back and perhaps they were tranquilizing a bear, maybe the neighborhood garbage-rummaging bear, and taking it away. It was only later that she learned the officials were instead releasing the Connecticut/Poughkeepsie bear and the shots were likely fired to spook the animal into hightailing it into the woods, she said.
Ancram Supervisor Art Bassin notified The Columbia Paper about the situation last week after hearing from Boston Corners residents who wanted to know why DEC officials were releasing a bear meant for Dutchess County in Columbia County, why they released it in an area which already has a problem bear and why area residents were not notified about what was going on.
“The bear was released in an area with a public golf course near the [Harlem Valley] Rail Trail and the Alander hiking trail,” said the supervisor in an email. He also said he heard about two other bear sightings in the last week on East Ancram Road.
The supervisor asked the town’s Comprehensive Plan Consultant Nan Stolzenburg, who has DEC contacts, to see what she could find out.
Ms. Stolzenburg later reported back that she spoke to a DEC Region 4 bear biologist, who knew about the release. He said that the DEC officer had mistakenly released the animal in Columbia County after getting a faulty reading on his GPS unit. The biologist made the point that the released bear was not what is called a “nuisance bear,” one that has repeated offenses like garbage-eating or breaking into people’s houses to steal food and was only tagged as part of a bear inventory.
DEC Spokeman Rosenbach told The Columbia Paper that the release was a way to give the bear a new life, since he was not a nuisance bear, which probably would have been destroyed, and it was not DEC policy to notify people when a bear is relocated in their neighborhood. Ms. Rosenbach did not respond to other questions posed by The Columbia Paper by deadline Wednesday.
Mr. Bassin said by phone Wednesday that bears have inhabited this area for a long time and most local residents know how to deal with them and most don’t have a problem. For those who are concerned, the supervisor put out a black bear alert email, which includes some tips like: “If you see a black bear, leave it alone and go the other way. If you come across bear cubs, do not approach them–the mother bear will be close by and may not be happy if you get too near her cubs.” He also included a link to the DEC website where people can get more information about black bears: http://www.dec.ny.gov/animals/7215.html.
To contact Diane Valden email