Massachusetts Bear Population Grows, Expands Range

Bears are showing up in new areas of the Bay State.

Massachusetts Bear Population Grows, Expands Range

An estimated 5,000 black bears roam the Bay State, and the population is on the rise. Photo: iStock/Lynn_Bystrom

Black bears are expanding their range and growing in number in Massachusetts, according to biologists keeping track of the bruins’ march across the state. 

Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife black bear biologist Dave Wattles told the Boston Herald that about 5,000 bears inhabit the state. He said the estimate about 50 years ago was less than 100 bears. The animals are moving east, crossing Interstate 495 and showing up in new areas, neighborhoods and communities. He believes adult females have a survival rate of about 88 percent. 

“Between Interstate 495 and 128, there are large amounts of natural habitat that bears can occupy,” Wattles said. “We’ve seen bears in Concord for the past several years. Their survival rate is the No. 1 factor to determine if there will be an increase in the population as we’ve seen over the years.” 

Massachusetts has three autumn bear hunting seasons, with a one-bear season limit. Hunters may use rifles, handguns, shotguns, muzzleloaders and archery gear. It is illegal to use dogs, bait, scents or other attractants. Hunters are required to report a successful hunt and also can submit a tooth for ongoing research. Wattles told the Herald that people who encounter bears in new areas of the state shouldn’t freak out about it. 

“Just because a bear might be in your backyard, it’s not impending doom,” Wattles said. “It’s not cause for alarm, but yes, it is a large and powerful animal. Don’t chase after it to try to get a photo. Leave it be and give it the space and respect it deserves. A lot of times in developed areas they’ll go up a tree. Giving them space will be key for that situation to resolve.”


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