Metro

Family of bears relocated from den on Route 2 median in Templeton

A state Environmental Police officer with one of the cubs.
Massachusetts State Police
A state Environmental Police officer with one of the cubs.

State officials had an unusual rescue on Route 2 Thursday morning: a mother bear and her cubs in the median strip.

The black bear family was found in a den built on the median strip in Templeton, State Police spokesman David Procopio said. Templeton, in Worcester County, is about 50 miles northwest of Boston.

Troopers closed the highway at Exits 19 and 20 around 10 a.m. so MassWildlife officials and Environmental Police could rescue the bears, Katie Gronendyke, spokeswoman for both agencies, said.

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“MassWildlife officials chose to relocate the bear family to a safer and more suitable location in a nearby wooded area to reduce the risk of vehicle collision when the cubs grow large enough to leave with their mother,” Gronendyke said. Their new location will not be disclosed to protect the bears’ safety, she added.

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Both sides of Route 2 were shut down while the mama bear was tranquilized and the family was removed from the den, Procopio said. The cubs were not tranquilized.

The mother bear weighed 206 pounds and wears a GPS collar because she is a part of a MassWildlife research project that tracks more than 30 bears and their movements in their local areas, Gronendyke said.

The research project focuses on bears that live in urban and rural areas in the Berkshires, the Connecticut River Valley, and Worcester County, MassWildlife said in a statement,

The mother bear had moved to the highway den for the winter in November and gave birth to her two cubs some time in mid-to-late January, MassWildlife said.

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The two cubs, one female and one male, both weighed more than 8 pounds each, Gronendyke said.

Route 2 was reopened as of 10:45 a.m., Procopio said.

Breanne Kovatch can be reached at breanne.kovatch@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter at @breannekovatch.