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Backyard wildlife: Learning to grin and bear it

A black bear was spotted in Sturbridge this week.

Sturbridge police department

A black bear was spotted in Sturbridge this week.

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It’s bear season again in the state’s more rural towns and suburbs, and there are encouraging signs that municipalities are starting to learn how to coexist safely with wild animals. After a black bear cub was spotted in Sturbridge several times this week, local police warned residents to be mindful of how they store trash or other potential food outdoors. “He hasn’t been bothering anyone,” a police spokeswoman said. “He’s just been roaming around.”

This attitude is a refreshing break from the near hysteria with which some communities and state officials have responded to sightings of potentially dangerous — and even not so dangerous — wild animals in recent years. Most notoriously, state Environmental Police last year shot and killed a 120-pound bear cub in Newton. And in 2012, a wild turkey was shot and killed in Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge and Watertown after it had charged a baby stroller and attacked an employee.

As more wild animals return to populated areas, and populated areas sprawl into animal habitats, people can expect more and more face-offs with their wild neighbors. The calm, common-sense protocol adopted by Sturbridge — which reports “tons” of black bear sightings every summer — sets a good example for other towns.

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