WILMINGTON — Adirondack Wildlife Refuge's bears haven't left town.

"They're in Wilmington," said Wendy Hall, who with her husband, Steve, own and operate the refuge there. "But they're in the woods."

The bears escaped from their enclosure somewhere around March 30, their silent departure marked by paw prints around the outside of the door they slipped through.

At first, the Halls thought Luve and Ahote wouldn't roam far and would be drawn back home by food set out for them.

But after a few days passed, it became clear help was needed.

The Halls contacted the State Department of Environmental Conservation. The public was asked to watch for the bears, and the DEC set up live traps in the Wilmington woods for them.

The public is urged to immediately report any sightings and not to leave food out for the bruins. 

With no human aid and no native plants yet growing to encourage the bears to stay free, they are far more likely to go home, Steve said earlier.

RAN INTO WOODS

Sometime in the first week of April, someone spotted the bears about 3 miles from the refuge but only posted that news on social media. By the time the Halls knew about it, three days had gone by and the trail was cold.

The most recent sighting, one evening earlier this week, was of Luve, a black bear by species but chocolate brown in color.

The person who saw her was driving through Wilmington, Wendy said, and pulled over to the side of the road.

At that point, Luve ran into the woods.

The bears, both sows and 2 years old, were born in captivity and were put into the Halls' hands at just a month old.

They are ambassadors for the refuge, providing an education for visitors who aren't allowed to see wild bears undergoing rehabilitation there since they will be returned to the woods.

RACE AGAINST SPRING

Luve and Ahote, who is all black and wears a silver ear tag, aren't aggressive, Steve said, but no one should approach any bear.

The Halls are relieved to know the bears aren't far away, but with spring setting in, it won't be long before the preferred foods of bruins just out of hibernation start growing — ferns, grasses, skunk cabbage and the like.

So time is of the essence.

And the escapees may find themselves with some company.

"Most bears are just waking up now," Wendy said.

REPORT SIGHTINGS

If you spot either bear, call 855-Wolf-Man (855-965-3626) or 914-772-5983.

Or contact the DEC Law Enforcement Dispatch Center at 1-844-332-3267.

The Adirondack Wildlife Refuge is located at 977 Springfield Road, off Route 86.

Learn more at: http://adirondackwildlife.org.