As it shambled about the South Shore in recent months, a black bear developed a taste for pumpkins, earning a cute nickname. But when Pumpkin the Bear got into a barn last week in Hanson and killed a goat, police decided to take action.
“Since the bear, known as Pumpkin, has gotten a taste for livestock he will have to be euthanized,” police wrote on Facebook.
That decision has sparked intense debate in the area, with many people calling on police to spare the animal’s life and move it to a rural area. But specialists say that relocating Pumpkin, or any troublesome bear that has grown accustomed to living in suburban areas, wouldn’t change its disruptive ways.
“We know people will not be happy with this decision,” police wrote on Facebook. “We cannot just relocate a problem bear in this area.”
A growing bear population has moved steadily east over the years, and Pumpkin had gotten into the residential barn before but the owner had installed an electric fence and reinforced the doors. Pumpkin was undeterred.
“Unfortunately, the bear is becoming too comfortable in the area and has found too many food sources,” police wrote.
After the barn break-in, officers spent more than two hours tracking Pumpkin but were unable to put him down. Since it was a residential area, officers “could not take a safe shot at the bear without the risk of endangering residents,” police wrote.
Anger over the decision to euthanize the bear was swift.
“This is a ridiculous decision! There are other options & you should try those first. Relocate that beautiful healthy bear to where he can live in peace,” one person wrote on Facebook.
“Relocate him, please,” another wrote. “The bear is just being a bear. Let it live its beautiful bear life.”
On Wednesday, the town’s police chief, Michael Miksch, said officers are no longer hunting the bear.
“The plan going forward will be on a case-by-case basis based on the bear’s actions to include the potential use of less-than-lethal rounds to discourage the bear,” Miksch said. “If people would stop feeding it, we would not be having this issue.”
Local police only become involved with bears when there is a threat to public safety, he added.
State wildlife officials said they are aware of Pumpkin and noted that while the bear “has attacked livestock, it has not exhibited behavior that it poses a direct threat to human safety.”
“However, lethal removal by law enforcement may be required if they determine there is a threat to public safety,” a MassWildlife spokesperson said.
Relocating bears that are causing property damage would only shift the problem to another community, officials said.
“Bears that have learned to raid chicken coops or attack livestock will not stop that behavior if moved elsewhere,” MassWildlife wrote on Facebook. ”The only animals that are relocated by MassWildlife and the Environmental Police are moved to resolve an immediate public safety threat, not caused by the animal’s behavior, but by the location of the animal.”
Police in Hanson, a suburb about 25 miles south of Boston, warned residents that “there is more than one bear in the area.”
“That being said, we cannot and will not take out a bear just because it is in your yard,” police wrote. “However, if the bear is showing no fear of humans or is attempting to enter an area with livestock, please notify police immediately.”
On Wednesday, MassWildlife is hosting a webinar on Zoom at 6:30 p.m. called “Coexisting with Black Bears.”