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A black bear hides in a tree after being pursued by police in Attleboro in 2011.
A black bear hides in a tree after being pursued by police in Attleboro in 2011.Associated Press

When people think of the struggle between man and nature, they usually don’t think of the suburbs. But as the seasons change and temperatures start to climb, more and more suburban communities are reporting sightings of black bears, beavers, and, in the case of Winchester, a mountain lion (a report that state officials dispute).

While some environmental advocates might see a black bear on their driveway as a welcome sign that the Commonwealth’s forests are returning to their former health, public safety officials tend to have more cause for concern. However, there are a few simple steps people should take to protect their own safety, as well as that of the animals. Residents of towns that have already reported bears, such as Groton, should follow the advice of the police and take down bird feeders — which could offer a ready meal to a bear that has just come out of hibernation. People who come across black bears should keep in mind that they aren’t aggressive, and will run if they hear a yell, according to Jeff Collins, director of ecological management at the Massachusetts Audubon Society. And while it is always good to keep in mind the old adage “never come between a mother and her cubs,” black bears hide their young in trees, a fact that should diffuse almost all potential confrontations.

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It is important to remember that the best protection against roaming wildlife is common sense. If you keep your distance, in all likelihood so will they.