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Apple picking time comes early

Saranac Lake residents asked to take safety precautions for their and black bear’s protection

Look closely, and you’ll see a black bear helping itself to some breakfast in an apple tree in Saranac Lake. (Provided photo — Chessie Monks-Kelly)

SARANAC LAKE — “‘The bear is in the apple tree!'”

Andy Kelly was tending to the chickens he and his wife Chessie Monks-Kelly own Tueday morning, Aug. 11, at their Park Avenue home when he saw a black bear up in an apple tree, using its powerful jaws and paws to rip out branches and eat the fruit.

Chessie said Andy called to her, and the two stood on their porch and watched the 4- to 5-foot-tall bear destroy the top third of their apple tree.

“It took the top four or so feet off the tree,” she said. “It was surreal to see it up that close. … It was just chilling. That’s not the official term, but it was just having a total buffet.”

Chessie posted a video of the bear to her Facebook page and to the “Saranac Lake Neighbor Helping Neighbor” page.

This was around 5:30 a.m. The bear spent around 20 minutes up in the tree, she said, and then climbed down and went through their neighbor’s yard to cross Park Avenue.

Chessie said an hour or two later “someone almost hit it with their car,” and later in the morning she heard someone saw it running on state Route 3.

This bear has been in the Trudeau/Mount Pisgah area for the past week or so.

On Aug. 7, Joe Henderson said the bear walked through his Park Avenue yard, checking out his kid’s swing set.

“My wife and kids and I were having breakfast and we walked out into the kitchen and I was just like, ‘Bear!'” Henderson said.

Both Monks-Kelly and Henderson said Steve Langdon, who lives on Old Military Road, also saw the bear this week.

They both said they are self-proclaimed “not bear experts,” and could not speak much to bear safety and (habits?), though they said they are taking precautions

Chessie said she called village police, and they said they would inform the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

Do not feed the bear

Though this up-close wildlife encounter in a local neighborhood is exciting for many, residents of the area now have a responsibility to their visitor.

“We live in the Adirondacks, man. We live in their territory,” Henderson said. “We’re all cohabitating here. We have to find a way to live with these animals.”

If a bear returns to a populated area due to a reliable food source it may become deemed a “problem bear” or “nuisance bear” and could be euthanized if it poses a danger to people and itself.

“It’s always sad to me when a bear gets put down,” Henderson said.

DEC Spokesman David Winchell said the department’s bear biologist will be able to speak to this bear situation in the near future.

“We have recently begun to see a rise in reported sightings of black bears in suburban and urban areas,” DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos wrote in a June 15 press release. “While seeing a bear is an exciting experience for many New Yorkers, bears that are inadvertently fed by humans exhibit unnatural behaviors and can become a nuisance.”

Chessie said people in that area should work to make the neighborhood as “un-tasty as possible” so it will move on.

“A bear passing through a developed area in search of suitable natural habitat may investigate human food sources, but if it cannot obtain anything to eat, it will continue on its way,” according to the DEC press release.

So far, the bear has been seeing eating from the apple tree, and possibly a garbage, though that has not been confirmed.

“If it is eating natural food, that’s a good thing,” said Adirondack Watershed Institute Assistant Director Zoe Smith, who used to be the Adirondack Program director at the Wildlife Conservation Society’s office in Saranac Lake. Now she works at the at AWI office at Paul Smith’s College.

Bears are known as “opportunistic feeders.”

“They’re pretty lazy,” Smith said, adding that now they are likely looking to pack on calories for the winter and will take whatever is readily available.

What can you do?

First and foremost, locals are asked by the DEC to not interact or feed the bear. They are asked to tell their neighbors of precautions they can take, too, such as closing garage doors and windows at night.

Residents in that area should take their bird feeders inside, not feed pets outdoors and keep their garbage smell down by storing it indoors until the morning of garbage day and securing cans closed.

Garbage odors can also be masked with ammonia-soaked rags.

Grills can attract bears, so if they can’t be moved indoors, grates and grease traps should be cleaned or removed.

Chessie pointed out that she cannot take in her apple tree. People with gardens, fruit trees and bushes are asked to be careful around those fixtures.

This bear has been spotted several times in the early morning.

If the bear is deemed a problem, Smith said the DEC will likely pursue non-lethal routes before euthanasia. She said removing the food incentive and scaring the bear off with rubber buckshot could be attempted, but if the bear is still damaging property or getting too close to humans, they’ll have to kill it.

The DEC says if someone comes in contact with a bear they should slowly back away. They should never run, surround or corner a bear.

“If feeling threatened by a bear, raise your arms over your head to look bigger and yell loudly at the bear while slowly backing away,” the press release states.

Smith also said bears are shy, so banging pots and pans will usually spook them.

As for the apple tree on Park Avenue, Chessie said “The deer came in and helped clean up the apples.”