The signs have been few and far between. A garbage can knocked over, the contents sifted through and some eaten.
Sightings have been brief, but intense.
A large black bear has been spotted in Granville several times in the past week, in close proximity to the public, prompting police to urge residents to be cautious around what is a large, unpredictable wild animal.
Saturday evening beginning about 6 p.m., a bear, believed to be the same one spotted in the town of Granville earlier in the week was reported to police in the area between Mettowee Street, Berkowitz Drive, Elm and Columbus streets.
Police Chief Ernie Bassett Jr. said at least one resident had to be sent back into his home when he emerged with a high powered hunting rifle during the search for the bear. “That’s one of the most dangerous things you could do in the village,” he said.
The rifle represented more danger to people than it does the bear as a rifle fired in the village could travel a significant distance and remain lethal, Bassett said.
If a bear is cited the police chief said he recommends staying away and calling police to report the sighting.
“People should avoid any kind of direct contact, stay inside your residence and call the police if (bear are) observed in the area,” Bassett said.
Officers responded and sought out the bear first reported to have been going through a dumpster off of Berkowitz Drive at the home of Melvin Martell Jr.
Arriving on Berkowitz Drive, Doug Quick watched as the bear reached into the dumpster to pull out a bag of garbage as he pulled in to pick up his daughter Lauren and Destinee Sitten.
“You just had a bear in your dumpster!” Martell quoted Quick as saying when he came through the door.
Minutes later the bear put in another appearance just a few feet away between a woodpile and the home.
“It was right outside of that door there. I could have reached out and smacked it on the ass,” Martell said. Martell heard a noise outside which was likely the black bear colliding with a four-wheeler parked in the back yard and looked up to see the bear. “I looked out and it back was about half way up the glass (in the door) – that’s one big bear,” Martell said.
Martell said he was kidding with the police officers who responded when he said he would donate the meat if they let him shoot the bear and keep the hide. “I just want a hide to hang on the wall,” he said with a laugh.
DEC Region 5 spokesperson Dave Winchell said the most important thing for people to do is eliminate easy sources of food for the bear by securing garbage and taking down birdfeeders. Birdfeeders are a significant attractant and source of easy food for the omnivorous animals.
Winchell said taking away the easy food sources will encourage the bear to move on or den up. “They don’t truly hibernate, but they will den up to conserve energy when food sources get scarce,” Winchell said.
Washington County Sheriff’s Deputy Tim Carroll joined Granville Police Officer Mark Merrill in pursuing the bear in an effort to drive it out of the village and hopefully back into the woods.
Shortly after the two began looking for the bear, an officer from the Department of Environmental Conservation, Steve Gonyea, also joined the chase.
Granville Sgt. David Williams said he joined the chase in progress about 7 p.m. and together the four attempted to push the bear out of the village with a combination of foot pursuit and spotlights.
Police said they hoped to find an area suitable to fire rubber bullets into the bear in hopes the shock of the noise and the pain from the impact would prompt the bear to leave the area. Winchell said if the bear has not become habituated to the village and garbage cans as a source of easy food the rubber buckshot used by DEC will oftentimes scare the animal off.
While bears are sometimes shot with tranquiller darts and removed from the area when they are unconscious, officials said, they cannot drug the animal during hunting season as there is some risk it could get away, be shot by a hunter and have that hunter consume meat tainted with the tranquilizer.
Officials described the bear as quite big for a black bear in the area at roughly 350 pounds and more than five feet tall when standing.
The bear is described as having a gray muzzle, indicating it is likely an older bear, as younger black bears have a tan muzzle.
Columbus Street resident Kristi Devino said she had no idea what was happening when a police cruiser and DEC truck parked at the end of her driveway Saturday night. She saw spotlights passing across the house and went to look.
“I certainly wasn’t thinking ‘bear’,” she said.
Devino said she found her trash can overturned and sifted through early Saturday morning and again Sunday morning, but assumed it had been done by some other, smaller animal.
The bear was first sighted in the area Tuesday, Dec. 13 when it surprised a Beecher Road man at his residence.
Pat Imbimbo said he came out of the house expecting to confront a dog going through the garbage and instead found a large black bear.
Imbimbo told police he fired shots from a .22 Hornet, a “varmint round” more similar to a .223, into the ground in an attempt to scare the bear away.
Officials said the bear was likely seeking food after recent mild weather failed to drive it to hibernate.
Bassett said he hoped the cold snap over the weekend might have encouraged the bear to seek a place for a long winter’s nap.
It remains unclear if the bear has left the area.
At least one set of trash cans was found overturned on Troy Terrace Sunday morning, but it was not clear when those cans were knocked over, officials said.
Martell said he thought the bear might have returned to his dumpster after the excitement Saturday night.
Bassett said one of the biggest misconceptions regarding bears is that they are aggressive so people think they need to get out there and kill it. Bears are purely in it for the food, he said.
“He’s here for food. He doesn’t want contact with us,” Bassett said.
The black bear returned to the village Tuesday night only to be driven off about10:30 p.m.by police.
Granville Police followed reports of bear activity for about two hours until catching up to the animal in the area of the Tractor Supply Company store off of Quaker Street. Using spotlights, patrol officers were able to drive the bear across theIndian Riverand Route 22 up into the woods where it was last seen.
Police said the bear was first spotted eating from a birdfeeder in a backyard. Officials with the DEC recommend taking down birdfeeders as they are an attractive food source for bears.
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation website lists a few facts to keep in mind when dealing with black bears.
Bears are Curious: They spend a great deal of time exploring for food, and this can bring them close to humans.
Granville Police Chief Ernie Bassett Jr. said bears can roam as much as 40 miles per day in search of something to eat making it quite possible; even likely, the two reports are of the same bear.
Bears are Intelligent: Bears learn from experience. If an activity results in food, they will repeat that activity. If an encounter with a human is negative, they learn to avoid humans. Also if an encounter with a human doesn’t result in a reward (food), they will not have any reason to have contact with humans.
The bear has knocked over multiple trash receptacles in the Columbus Streetand entered a dumpster on Berkowitz Drivearea. Police said the reasoning behind shooting the bear with rubber bullets was to teach it coming into the village is a bad idea.
Feeding Bears Creates “Bad” Bears: When bears learn to obtain food from humans, they can become bold and aggressive.
Bassett said he’s concerned that even if the bear is gone for this season it might return to the promise of an easy meal. Should the trouble continue, he said it might become necessary for residents to secure their garbage.