SOUTHINGTON — A bear sighting on the road leading to Strong Elementary School last week prompted a warning call to parents.
Staff spotted a lone male bear on the entrance road to Strong Elementary School off Marion Avenue on Friday morning, Superintendent Steve Madancy said. The bear was walking on the road near the school. The town Animal Control Officer responded and confirmed the bear had moved along, Madancy said. The timing of the sighting was around when students would be arriving for school, so staff made the decision to send out an automated phone message because they didn’t think parents would have enough time to see an email before arriving, he said.
“It’s not atypical,” Madancy said of bear sightings around town. “It was challenging because it was during arrival time.”
The bear was gone before students arrived, but Principal Melissa Barbuto kept the children inside for morning recess as a precaution, Madancy said. To his knowledge, this was the first time a bear was spotted near Strong Elementary School although there have been sightings near Deryonoski and Flanders elementary schools and Southington High School in the past, Madancy said.
There was a plan to have parents pick up walkers/bikers for dismissal, but he believes the school was able to operate normally by dismissal time. There were no further sightings this week.
The Department of Energy and Environmental Protection noted that black bear sightings have been on the rise and are expected to increase. Breeding season is in late June or early July, and male bears will travel to find a mate. They are attracted by the smell of food and are rarely aggressive toward humans, DEEP states.
“In most cases, if left alone, the bear will make its way to a more natural habitat,” DEEP states in an information sheet about black bears in the state. “Removing food attractants, such as bird feeders, reduces the chance that bears will go near homes. The DEEP seldom relocates bears. An exception may be made to remove a bear in an urban location when there is little likelihood that it can leave safely on its own and when the bear is in a position where it can be safely immobilized.”
Residents that encounter a bear are advised to observe it from a distance and announce their presence by yelling and waving their arms, or walking slowly away. Residents should never feed or try to attract bears. Residents should remove bird feeders from March through November and never feed pets outside.
Reporter Lauren Sellew can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.