Black bears mostly survive on roots, berries, larvae, grass and other succulent plants, but a spring and early summer dry spell may be driving them to seek food from human sources.

Social media lit up last week with reports of a black bear seen in Scarborough, first in the Maple Avenue/Route 1 area and then again in the area of Pleasant Hill Road. Police also got a report of a bear seen on Broadturn Road.

Sightings of another bear, or perhaps the same one, were also reported in South Portland.

“We aren’t sure if it’s one bear or a couple, but the Maine Warden’s Service says bear calls have increased due to the dry weather and lack of vegetation in the bear habitats,” the Scarborough Police Department said on its Facebook page.

As with any wildlife, authorities are urging residents to keep their distance if they come upon a bear. A local man, Ted Hatch, did provide the police with a video of a black bear attacking the bird feeder in his back yard, but it appeared that he stayed far back to keep out of the bear’s line of sight.

Residents should make sure to be aware of their surroundings, according to Chris Creps, Scarborough’s animal control officer. As for other important safety tips:  “Use common sense, don’t approach and make sure your kids know that, as well. Keep  cats inside and make sure your dogs are safely confined to your property.”

To make property less attractive to bears, authorities urge residents to secure trash in a garage or shed; bring bird feeders inside for a few weeks; keep any outdoor grills clean after cooking; and don’t throw any food scraps into the back yard.

Bear sightings are not necessarily unusual this time of year, according to Sgt. Steve Thibodeau with the Scarborough Police. “Specifically because of the dry weather, the bears are looking for food that otherwise would have been ripe right now,” he said.

He added, “All they want is food. Until their natural food source is ready to eat, keep your human food away.”

– Kate Irish Collins

A still from a video of a black bear in the backyard of Scarborough resident Ted Hatch.

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