OLD FORGE — With their normal summer diet of greens and berries shriveled by summer heat or drought in many spots nationwide, hungry bears are rummaging through garbage, ripping through screens and crawling into cars in search of sustenance.
In the Adirondack Mountain village of Old Forge in northern New York, a black bear clawed through the wall of a candy store on Main Street last week; another one locked itself in a minivan and shredded the interior in a frantic struggle to escape, according to the Department of Environmental Conservation.
“We’ve been here 17 years and never had a problem with bears,” said Roslyn Starer, who runs the Candy Cottage in Old Forge with her son, Larry. “But it’s been so dry the normal foods in the woods just aren’t growing. So they’re coming into town.”
Starer came to the shop one morning to find a bear had ripped a big hole in the wall. “If it had gone much further it would have gotten into the shop, and the damage would have been devastating,” she said.
This summer’s bear troubles aren’t isolated to New York. In eastern Kentucky, the U.S. Forest Service closed two campgrounds for a weekend at the end of July because of bears raiding picnic baskets and coolers. Biologists blamed the drought-
related berry shortage.
In Colorado, where drought has dried up the chokecherries and serviceberries bears rely on, a bear and three cubs broke into more than a dozen cars in Aspen looking for food in June.
Weather-related bear problems are nothing new, as natural food supplies vary from year to year depending on rainfall and other factors. But this summer has been a particularly busy one, wildlife biologists in New York say.
“This has been an interesting year for bears, especially in the Catskills,” said Jeremy Hurst, a big game biologist with the Department of Environmental Conservation. “In multiple communities, bears have gotten into people’s homes, in some cases even when people were at home. Half a dozen to a dozen bears have been euthanized. More have been trapped and relocated.”
While property has been damaged by foraging bears, no human injuries have been reported in New York this year.