An East Aurora family in the midst of admiring their blooming flower garden was surprised by a black bear with a keener interest in the berries and honey around their Porterville Road yard.
“He kept kind of circling the beehives and contemplating whether or not he could get in,” said Jennifer McCormick, who photographed the bear while visiting her parents on July 4th afternoon. “Our backyard is a smorgasbord.”
She had been poised, with camera in hand, to photograph her mother’s purple clematis flowers when the bear, looking to be about 200 pounds, dashed out. It went from the side of the house, where there is a raspberry patch, to the platform where, for years, a friend and beekeeper has kept a stack of hives, now full of honey.
“It was wild. It was almost unbelievable,” said her mother, Amanda Rice. “I just hope the bear has found a new neighborhood.”
After a few minutes, the bear headed to the woods from her Porterville Road house, which is about 1.5 miles from Main Street and near Route 400.
A few months ago, village police received a report of a bear running across that highway. Village police receive about two or three bear calls a year, said Officer Robert Braeuner.
“They generally don’t want anything to do with people,” he said.
But more bears seem to be roaming the Southern Tier, taking cover in patches of forest that were once open farmland, he said.
While most of the state’s estimated 6,000 to 7,000 bears are in the north, a small but growing population of about 1,500 to 2,000 are thought to live in the Southern Tier, according to the Department of Environmental Conservation’s Web page. On average black bears are about 250 pounds and 6 feet tall, said Braeuner. They’re most dangerous if they are with cubs or heading for people.
“Ignorance and stupidity – that’s going get you into trouble: Try feeding one. Trying to pet one,” he said. “They’re wild, and they will defend themselves.”
Police don’t usually come out for bears unless they become a nuisance. Staying away, as the Rice family did, is the best approach, he said.
“These people had honey and berries, and it’s like ringing the dinner bell,” Braeuner said, noting that bears have an extraordinary sense of smell.
“They can smell you way before you can see them,” he said.
The visiting bear stayed around the Porterville Road yard for a few minutes before heading for the woods.
That was enough time for McCormick to snap a few pictures and take advantage of her high-powered Nikon D90 from the safety of the screen porch.
“I had just gotten my camera ready. I had my hand on the door to go outside the porch. He shot out of the side of the house,” she said of the bear. “I never thought they were that fast.”
As the bear made its exit, she’d been tempted to go for even better shots.
“My parents wouldn’t let me go outside. I’m 37 and I’m like, ‘I want to go outside,’ ” she said. “I totally missed the opportunity to shoot him outside the screen.”