Cape Cod is all atwitter over rare ursine visitor

In West Barnstable on Cape Cod, a wooden fixture outside the Old Village Store now sportsa sign noting it's not the bear people are looking for. STEVE HEALSLIP / Cape Cod Times
In West Barnstable on Cape Cod, a wooden fixture outside the Old Village Store now sportsa sign noting it's not the bear people are looking for. STEVE HEALSLIP / Cape Cod Times

The bear likely swam from the mainland last month.

Posted: June 08, 2012

PROVINCETOWN, Mass. - The biggest sensation on Cape Cod right now isn't the lobster, the historic lighthouses, or its rolling sand dunes. It's not even a Kennedy.

It's a bear.

A bruin believed to have swum about 500 feet across the Cape Cod Canal from the mainland on Memorial Day weekend has captured the imagination of residents as it traipses across the peninsula. Officials say research dating to the 1700s suggests this is the first bear on the Cape.

Boston-area newscasts are featuring daily updates on the bear's whereabouts, and a Cape Cod Bear Twitter feed has more than 1,300 followers. A local brewery is even offering bear-themed shirts.

"Well, my goodness. How often do you see a bear on Cape Cod?" said Marion Larson, a spokeswoman for the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife. "It's really cool and people are really excited about it."

A Cape Cod Times reporter told the paper she spotted the bear around 6 a.m. Thursday and said it bounded across the road like a puppy.

The bear, likely a male about 3 years old weighing 150 to 200 pounds, has been seen near a chicken coop, a cranberry bog, a golf course, and more than a dozen other locations along a 60-mile stretch of the Cape from Sandwich east to Provincetown.

Now that the bear has reached the tip of the Cape, wildlife officials say they may attempt to immobilize and move it to an area where other bears live. Officials say it's possible the bear could retrace its steps and head west.

The bear can only be tranquilized if officials can isolate it in a tree or some other confined space, said Laura Conlee, the state's bear expert. Another option would be to try to catch it in a trap that basically consists of two 55-gallon steel drums welded together and then move it elsewhere.

But Ruth Anne Cowing, a Provincetown police officer who handles animal-control duties for the town, said officials there are hoping the bear will retrace its steps and get out of town. So far it has stayed mostly in the woods and retreated every time it's seen a person.

But she says the area is just too congested to let the bear stay where it is.

"Now he's at the very end so he needs to make a decision or we'll make it for him," she said. "We think he's here looking for a mate. . . . We're hoping he realizes he's the only one here, and he turns around and goes back home."

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