TYNGSBORO — When Rebecca Newell and her family first moved to their Tyngsboro home in December, she recalls assuming the gate set up on the property was a way to keep the former owner’s dog in the yard.
But after some recent experiences, Newell now believes the since-removed gate may have instead been used to keep an animal out of the yard — specifically a black bear.
Newell recently shared a video she took from the safety of her home that explains her theory. The video shows a black bear prowling around her porch. She says the animal has become a regular visitor of her family’s Red Gate Road property, which is nestled along a thick expanse of woods.
“There’s wildlife, but the bear is new,” said Newell, associate dean of students at Middlesex Community College, whose father, Michael Rosenberg, is a former Sun editor.
In Newell’s 30-second clip, the bear — as if the creature had done it many times before — saunters down a lengthy stretch of porch steps. Sniffing at the air, the bear inspects a nearby garbage bin that holds some garden tools. The beast then turns around and strolls out of view.
It was her husband, Shawn, who first spotted the bear roughly two weeks ago while he was inside the house.
“He looked out a window and there he was, staring right back at him,” Newell said about the bear. “He literally was right there, 2 feet away, looking back in. I don’t know if they made eye contact, but …”
Shawn’s sighting was followed by his stunned exclamation of “a few bad words,” according to Newell. The family, including their children 15-year-old Jojo and 11-year-old Sam, proceeded to watch the bear as it helped itself to bird seed set up in the yard. When the creature left the property, the family got to work doing what they could to make sure it wouldn’t return.
“We took all the bird feeders down, and made sure our trash was secured,” Newell said. “We really tried to just not have an area that he’d want to come visit. The animal is absolutely beautiful, and we really love the wildlife around here. We want to coexist with them, we just don’t want them coming over for dinner.”
The initial efforts to discourage the animal seem to have been futile.
According to Newell, either the same bear — or possibly another bear — has stopped by the property three times since the original sighting. In these most recent visits, the bear has made itself at home on the Newells’ porch — walking up the steps and inspecting the premises, probably in search of food.
“We’ve been startled by him a couple times now,” Newell said. “While they’re very big, they are super quiet and you can’t hear them coming up the stairs. So they are a very quiet, graceful animal.”
Newell points out she has also researched as much as she can about black bears since spotting the animal outside her window. There is a section on the Massachusetts state official website that filled her in on an array of black bear details.
According to the website, black bears have been increasing in numbers and distribution in the state since the 1970s. The statewide population of bears is estimated to be over 4,500 animals and is growing and expanding eastward, with the animals already known to live and breed in northern Middlesex County.
Newell discovered that black bear sightings are not unheard of in and around Tyngsboro. She references a page on Facebook, called Tyngsboro Bear Sightings, which allows those throughout the area to discuss sightings. Pictures of the Newells’ bear visitor are becoming a regular addition to the page.
As much as the Newells respect the black bear, they are exploring other methods to keep the animal away from their home, including motion lights and sound transmission devices. They also plan to buy bear spray, but that is only as a last resort.
“We really don’t want to hurt the bear in anyway,” Newell said.
“I would love it if I could see him everyday, but I know that’s not the best thing for me or the bear,” she added. “We certainly want him to live a long life in the woods and not become a problem for the neighborhood.”
As for the former gate around the property, Newell said they will be putting it back up.
The state’s website encourages those who encounter bears around their homes to remove bird feeders and pet food, and secure trash that might attract the animals.
“Bears that have been habituated (accustomed) and dependent on human-associated foods, such as bird seed, trash, and pet food, are likely to cause damage and become a nuisance,” the website states. “Removal of food sources and other attractants is key to preventing problems with bears.”
Follow Aaron Curtis on Twitter @aselahcurtis