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In Newton, residents concerned about bear’s fate

Police walked down Webster Street in Newton, searching for a bear after it was spotted on Rowe Street Friday evening.
Police walked down Webster Street in Newton, searching for a bear after it was spotted on Rowe Street Friday evening.Scott Eisen for The Boston Globe

NEWTON — As word spread that a bear had wandered into a neighborhood here, residents were naturally concerned for their pets and their loved ones. But they were especially concerned about the bear.

“I hope the bear is safe, and gets back to a habitat that is more hospitable, or his own natural surrounding,” said Sharyn Roberts. “I love animals and feel bad that we’re encroaching more and more on their territory.”

A medium-sized black bear was spotted Friday evening in Newton’s Auburndale section, and police observed it napping before it moved on. A subsequent search by Newton officers and the Massachusetts Environmental Police in the area of Webster and Rowe streets ended late Friday night. The bear entered a wooded area on its own, said Environmental Police spokeswoman Katie Gronendyke.

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Another search won’t begin unless the bear is seen again.

“It could be anywhere,” Newton Police Lieutenant Bruce Apotheker said Saturday. “It could be miles away. We just don’t know.”

A bear was also spotted in neighboring Weston late Friday night, but authorities do not know whether it was the same bear, Apotheker said. There were no sightings reported on Saturday, Apotheker and Gronendyke said.

Newton residents recalled the 2013 killing of a small black bear that had climbed a tree adjacent to Washington Street near the Massachusetts Turnpike, and said they hope this bear doesn’t meet the same fate.

“I’m hoping this time they can locate the bear without hurting it,” said Alderman Ted Hess-Mahan, who was doing some politicking at a farmers market a few blocks from the bear sighting.

The Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife told the Globe in June about an increase in the black bear population in parts of the state that hadn’t seen bears in centuries.

In recent years, bears have entered well-populated areas, causing concern for residents and keeping wildlife management authorities busy. In 2012, a bear was spotted on Cape Cod and was relocated, and later appeared in Brookline. In 2013, bear sightings were reported on a single day in Webster, Charlton, and Sturbridge.

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Larry Aller was pushing a double stroller with his two young children a few blocks away from the Newton location where the animal was seen and said he wasn’t concerned about a bear encounter.

“They’re more interested in my trash can than my kid,” Aller said. The probability of a child being injured in a motor vehicle accident is higher than a bear attack, he said.

Cathie Clement was with her small terrier, Misty, at the farmers market a few blocks from the sighting on Saturday morning, and said she often walks the dog in the area where the bear was spotted.

“I’m more concerned about the bear,” she said. Her pet, after all, stays on a leash.

Larger wild animals aren’t uncommon in Newton, a city of 88,000 people, or nearly 5,000 people per square mile.

“You see a lot of turkeys in Newton,” said Ken Delgizzi, who lives in the Auburndale section. “Turkeys are everywhere.”

Newton residents have had meetings at the police station in recent years about hungry coyotes who feasted on small animals. And neighbors are accustomed to seeing deer.

The bear sighting Friday night did not cause too much alarm, though residents said they did keep their pets inside after they received an automated phone call from the city advising them to do so.

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“We don’t have that kind of alert here very often, and I hope the bear wandered to safety somewhere,” said Andrea Kelley, who lives a few blocks from the sighting.

At the farmers market, there was plenty of speculation about how the bear arrived in the city, whether it crossed a bridge over the Charles River or swam across. Perhaps it had been hiding in a wooded area on Rowe Street that had recently been cleared, or in a wooded area along the river near the Boston Marriott Newton hotel.

Alderman James Cote noted the bear sightings’ proximity to the train tracks.

“Maybe it’s a commuter, and it came in from Worcester,” Cote said.

Police convened on Webster Street Friday night while looking for the bear.
Police convened on Webster Street Friday night while looking for the bear.Scott Eisen for The Boston Globe

Jill Terreri Ramos can be reached at jill.ramos@ globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @jillterreri.