ELLSWORTH, Maine — An early morning bear sighting on a downtown residential street had nervous residents looking to authorities for help on Monday.
Around 5 a.m., the Ellsworth Police Department received several reports of a “large bear” wandering around Elm and Water streets. A dispatcher called an official at the Maine Warden Service, who said not to worry, as the animals generally leave populated areas when the sun comes up.
The bear likely awoke from hibernation fairly recently, said Doug Rafferty, spokesman for the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. He said that this time of year, it’s not uncommon for bears to wander into even densely populated areas in search of food.
“It’s more normal than you might think,” he said. “It all goes back to basic instincts with bears. They will follow their nose when they’re looking for food. If the wind is blowing in the right direction and they get a whiff from a mile away, they’re going for it.”
In an April news release, the department said bear incidents tend to slow down as summer progresses, when it’s easier for hungry bears to find natural food. Last year, when the state saw an early spring, the Maine Warden Service received 870 bear-related complaints — up from 436 complaints in 2011 and just 395 in 2010.
The department urges Mainers to keep garbage and livestock foods inside whenever possible, to properly clean outdoor grills and to take down birdfeeders.
“This time of year, with things coming back to life, you can pretty much stop feeding everything and let them forage on their own,” Rafferty said. “They’ll do just fine.”
Follow Mario Moretto on Twitter at @riocarmine.