When a 1-year-old bear was found hiding inside the garage of a Berkshire County home earlier this month, she was emaciated, wet, and shivering.
Just three weeks later, after going through rehabilitation at the Tufts Wildlife Clinic, she was released back into the wilderness, more than double the weight she had been when state Division of Fisheries and Wildlife officials removed her from the garage on April 5.
The black bear had been treated by a team of veterinarians and veterinary students at the North Grafton clinic, which is run through Tufts University’s Cummings Veterinary Medical Center. Maureen Murray, assistant director of the clinic who worked on the team, said the bear was extremely cooperative with the veterinarians and had a ravenous appetite.
Within three weeks, the bear went from 12 pounds to 25 pounds. She was released on Wednesday.
Murray said bears usually separate from their mothers in the spring or summer months, so this bear seemed to be away from her mother a bit earlier than usual.
The bear was sedated for a thorough examination and X-ray, and the veterinarians found no diseases, injuries, or infections — she was just malnourished, Murray said.
“She just wasn’t fending for herself very well,” Murray said.
While at the clinic, the bear was kept in a large enclosure that keeps human interaction at a minimum so the animals can easily adapt back into their natural settings. The veterinarians don’t want the animals to become too comfortable or too reliant on humans.
“You run the risk of lessening their fear of humans if they see you as a food source,” she said. “The last thing that we would want is to put out a bear that becomes potentially a problem bear that is showing up at people’s yards looking for food.”
Black bears are common in Massachusetts, Murray said. They are not predatory and live on a diet of mostly nuts and berries, occasionally eating a dead animal if they happen upon one, she said.
“They will only come into a person’s yard if there’s a food source there,” she said. “They’re not aggressive animals. They’re not predatory animals. They’re not interested in people’s pets.”Felicia Gans can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.