It was a wild Monday in the suburbs west of Boston, with reports of a black bear ambling down by the Charles River in Needham and sightings of a 600-pound moose racing through backyards and across streets in Wellesley.
“Unbelievable! He got up on his hinds, he was big,” said Needham resident Walter Hasenfus, who spotted the bear in the woods behind the Charles River Landing luxury apartments on Second Avenue. “He was right on the edge of the banks. He was just moseying along, didn’t have a care in the world.”
When the bear saw Hasenfus, it stood up on its hind legs and stared at him for about five seconds before dropping down and heading north along the river. The bear, Hasenfus said, appeared to be taller than his own nearly 6-foot frame.
Later in the afternoon, Regis Price, 12, of Wellesley, was less pleased to find herself just 30 yards away from a moose in her neighbor’s backyard.
“All of a sudden, I see this big animal gallopingaway. It was tall and skinny, and its legs had really big knee bones. It was weird. I just started screaming,” she said.
Authorities in both towns searched for the creatures Monday afternoon, but without success.
The suburban sightings follow a rash of similar wildlife reports across the state — especially of black bears. One particularly adventurous bear spent weeks roaming Cape Cod, romping through cranberry bogs and backyards and spawning bear-themed T-shirts before being tranquilized in Wellfleet and relocated.
A bear was spotted around Norwood Saturday night, according to local police. And State Environmental Police investigated reports of a black bear in the woods along Route 109 in Dedham Sunday. Officers did not locate the bear.
There is no way to know if it is the same animal spotted in Needham, said Reggie Zimmerman, spokesman for the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs.
“It’s possible, but I can’t really say definitively,” he said. “Bears do travel great distances, they are capable of that.”
One possible reason for the recent uptick in bears-about-town: The bears are out looking for that special someone. It’s black bear mating season, Zimmerman said, and young males are in search of their own patch of land to call home. “They’re searching for a mate,” he said. “They’re like teenagers.”
Zimmerman said there were about 3,000 bears in the state as of 2005, but their numbers have been slowly growing, and the population has been expanding into Eastern Massachusetts in search of food and open territory.
Bears are timid, he said, and his agency has no record of any black bear attacks in Massachusetts. Still, he said, wild animals are best viewed from a distance.
Some people were alarmed that a bear had shown up in Needham. “I live in a wooded area, I’m always joking with my kids — ‘I bet there’s a bear out there,’” said Newton resident Rhonda Burris, who was stopping by a Petco near where the Needham bear was spotted. “I won’t be going out at night.”
On Monday night, several bear sightings were reported in Newton from numerous areas, including an alleged sighting near Winchester Street, said Newton Police Lieutenant Bruce Apotheker.
And the moose seemed to have evaded capture, much to the chagrin of residents toting cameras and hoping to catch a glimpse.
While authorities combed Wellesley backyards Monday afternoon, people drove around hollering out the latest updates on the moose’s location from the police scanners. Groups on foot swapped stories and shared pictures on cellphones. They gathered with cameras to watch as authorities blocked off a home on Lexington Road to search its backyard for the wild interloper.
Wellesley Police worked with Environmental Police to track the moose for hours from the area of Reeds Pond, where the animal reportedly went swimming, to Lexington and Shirley roads.