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Neighbors abuzz after bear's rise and fall from a Brookline tree

Posted by Leslie Anderson  June 26, 2012 02:28 PM

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The first tweet from the Brookline Police Department came in just before 8 a.m. on Tuesday morning.

“It's back.. Bear resting in a tree in south Brookline. Pine road. Officers on scene keeping quite. [sic] Shhhh”

A young black bear, a male just shy of 200 pounds, had clambered up a towering pine tree in the back yard of a sprawling home on Pine Road in Brookline. For weeks, suburbanites have been watching with giddy fascination as reports of bears came out of Cape Cod, Norwood, Dedham, Medfield, Needham – and now, to the delight of a gathering crowd, a bear had appeared in Chestnut Hill.

In fact, the bear made its entrée into the affluent neighborhood on Monday night. Police got calls for black bear sightings at around 9 p.m. in the area of Princeton Road and Rangeley Road.

But according to Chief Daniel O’Leary, they couldn’t locate the animal. So they made a plan to flood the area with officers early on Tuesday morning to try to find him.

Douglas Chope, 48, was walking his yellow lab, Fluff, at around 6:30 in the morning when a police officer stopped him and told him to be careful because there was a black bear in the area.

“I thought maybe he was kidding,” said Chope.

The police were not kidding.

“Police told me, there’s a bear in your yard,” said Sherry Leventhal, owner of the home where the bear took up residence. “At first, I didn’t believe them.”

But as police searched the grounds of her spacious estate, the bear went racing past, spooked, and climbed straight up a pine tree at the edge of her property.

“It looked like a black bear you see in the zoo – but it was in my backyard!”

She was shocked at how big his claws were. “Bears have cute faces. They look like a teddy bear,” she said. “But the paws on those things are enormous.”

“Black bear black bear what do you see? . I see .Brookline police looking at me,” came the next police tweet.

By 9 a.m., Hammond Street was lined with parked cars as motorists pulled off to see the commotion. Two blocks south of Route 9, mere walking distance from the malls of Chestnut Hill, the bear perched in the crook of the tree, watching police cars and media vans accumulate below him.

Teri Burke of Roslindale, who works at nearby Boston College, pulled over to watch. “I thought I’d snap a picture and send it to my friends in New Hampshire,” she said. “I don’t want them to hurt the poor thing.”

Brookline police and state environmental police mobilized to remove the animal, and a giant bucket crane pulled up and traffic was blocked off entirely.

“In about 15 minutes, they’re going to go up and tranquilize it,” said Brookline police Lieutenant Philip Harrington. “It’s exciting as long as no one gets hurt.”

Soon, a state environmental police officer got into the bucket and the crane hoisted him toward the tree. Across the street, children peppered their parents with questions.

“How big is the needle?” asked one child.

As the shooter pointed his rifle, there were cracking sounds, and the bear began to lumber down. “Oh my God, it’s coming down!” one onlooker said.

Just as quickly, the bear turned the other way and started climbing to the top. “Oh, he’s going higher!” “Bear on the move!”

Remarked one father standing nearby, “He’s smarter than your average bear.”

With the bear staunchly refusing to come down from the tree, children watching offered their own ideas for how officers could coax him to the ground.

“I would get another bear,” said Sabrina Moure, 5.

“I think go to Whole Foods and get a lot of meat and put it at the bottom of the tree,” said Anna Kurtin, 9.

“Honey,” said Billy Scanlon, 9, nodding solemnly.

But the sedative had begun to work.

Leventhal, watching from the safety of her house, said she could see the bear’s grip getting looser.

“We all feared he would fall and die,” she said.

Fall he did: at around 10 a.m., he plummeted 80 feet into some bushes.

According to Chief O’Leary, when officials went over to him on the ground, he had a tree branch still clasped in his paw.

Officers tranquilized him a second time on the ground, then wrapped him in a sheet and green netting. They covered his eyes so that he wouldn’t be scared by the throngs of media outside.

The bear, said O’Leary, is doing fine, despite the 80-foot drop.

“Bears are resilient animals,” he said.

Apparently, he said, the bear has been captured twice before – he was tagged.

The bear was packed in ice in the back of an Environmental Police truck to keep its body temperature from rising, an effect of the tranquilizer. He was taken to Western Massachusetts where he will be released into the wild, according to Reggie Zimmerman, spokesman for the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs.

Officials will monitor the bear to make sure he’s no worse for the wear, said Zimmerman.

The neighborhood is still abuzz after the departure of its celebrity bear. Some said that bears may be becoming a part of the suburban landscape.

“With the recent sightings, it just seems like a course of nature – nature’s always going to find a way,” said Brian Sisk, a contractor working on a Pine Road home across the street from the home the bear briefly visited. “Everybody loves nature until it’s in their backyard.”

Leslie Anderson of the Globe Staff contributed to this report.
Evan Allen can be reached at evan.allen@globe.com

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