COLTON — A wayward black bear apparently traveled all the way from Old Forge to dine on birdseed in neighborhood feeders along Cottage Road in the town.
Officials are telling residents of Colton from Cottage Road to Higley Flow State Park to be on the lookout for marauding bears — one in particular, sporting an ear tag with the number 607. Tags allow the state Department of Environmental Conservation to keep tabs on the animals. In this case, the tag designates the bear as being from the Old Forge area.
The driving distance from Old Forge to Colton is about 95 miles. As the crow flies, it's about 43 miles.
"It's a long ways, but bears do travel, and I don't know how long he has been traveling," said Cottage Road resident Harvey A. Smith.
Mr. Smith said son-in-law Bob Frenyea snapped some close-up photos of the tagged bear raiding a neighbor's bird feeder on Sunday in Colton. A short time later, a DEC official passed through the area with some advice.
"The warden told us to take down all of our feeders, because he's becoming a nuisance," Mr. Smith said. "He also said that he's probably doing this because some people have been feeding him. He said that's what usually happens when they start going into cottages and homes."
Richard A. Matzell, a retired game warden who lives on Cottage Road, said he has received several phone calls from people concerned about bears. Although Mr. Matzell retired from DEC five years ago, he said he still receives frequent calls from people reporting animal activity.
Mr. Matzell said it is not uncommon for bears to begin raiding bird feeders at this time of year, because the animals have an almost insatiable appetite and from May to late July there is little forage for them.
"What they are really waiting for is late July and August, when the berries come out and then the nuts come out on the trees in the fall," Mr. Matzell said. "They'll travel for food, and they know where to go, but right now they have a few months where there isn't much to eat and they're getting tired of eating grass."
Mr. Matzell said that during his years as a game warden, he live-trapped a number of nuisance bears and moved them to other areas. He said that might be the case with the Old Forge bear now working the Colton area. He also said bears are highly intelligent and will come up with creative ways to satisfy their hunger.
He said the best thing residents can do this time of year to keep bears from causing problems is to put away birdseed, corn and other animal feed, clean and put away barbecue grills and make sure there is no standing garbage on their property.