The first sign was the suet holders, set out to feed woodpeckers, that had been pulled from the trees. Then the bird feeders got crushed. From these clues, Eric and Lorna MacLaughlin deduced that they had some new visitors to their backyard in Ellsworth.
The larger one, whom they have named Big Amos, appears to weigh about 400 pounds. Eric’s hunter friends identified him as a male black bear by the shape of his snout and dark coat. The smaller bear, Ozzy — as in Osbourne — is more adventurous. He will lope into the yard during the day, while the larger one confines his visits to nighttime, but Ozzy darts up a tree if spooked, Lorna MacLaughlin said.
Bears like Amos and Ozzy are the reason Ellsworth and nearby Blue Hill have recorded some of the largest numbers in Maine for damage by bears this spring. Of the 38 reports the state Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife had received by May 1, four were in Blue Hill and three were in Ellsworth. Blue Hill tied with Kennebunk for the highest number of reports in a single town, said Jen Vashon, a wildlife biologist with the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. Like Ellsworth, Biddeford also recorded three nuisance bear encounters.
Amos and Ozzy are harmless enough, if left alone, Lorna MacLaughlin said. She has recorded video of both with her cellphone and always makes sure that she keeps a considerable distance between herself and the wild creatures whenever she sees them.
“If we have a window open with the screen in, I will talk to them,” the 52-year-old MacLaughlin said Monday. “I have opened the door up before and stood on the doorstep and chatted with Big Amos. He sits there and looks at me, like, ‘Why are you bothering me?’”
“I don’t feel threatened by him, but I would not go out and try to pet him, no. We both respect him,” MacLaughlin added. “You have to respect them and keep your distance. I have had so many people tell me that he will come through your door, he will come through your windows, but we use common sense, too. We don’t treat them like pets.”