A black bear on a summer walkabout sent residents in three Union County towns on a chaotic five-hour search to corral the 200-pound cub.
Law-enforcement officials tracked the bear on a roughly three-mile trek through Westfield and Garwood before it climbed a tree in the back yard of a Cranford home. State Division of Fish and Wildlife officials tranquilized the bear at about 11:30 Tuesday morning at the home on Orchard and Estelle Streets, after it was first spotted at Mountain Avenue and Birch Avenue in Westfield.
“He meandered to Cranford Avenue,” Westfield Police Captain Clifford Auchter said, noting that he could not remember the last time a bear came to Westfield. “He moved quite a distance.”
Following the sighting at Mountain and Birch, the bear walked over to Oak Avenue, where he settled into the backyard of 769 Oak Street in search of food. Resident David Buckman said that at about 7 a.m., he watched the bear mangle the backyard birdfeeder before it started munching on a basket of berries and nuts and ambled into the shade of some trees next to a hammock.
“It was just hanging out,” Buckman’s daughter, Jackie, said. “It was a tiny bear. It was adorable.”
Westfield police officers tried unsuccessfully to corner the bear in the Buckman’s yard and by 8 a.m. the cub was spotted near Belvidere Avenue, trudging along Cranford Avenue near Sherman Street in Westfield. Pat Seary said she was sitting in her house when her Bichon Shih Tzu, which was leashed in the front yard, started barking. Perhaps fearing that the bear’s mother might come looking for her offspring, Seary wouldn’t release the dog’s name.
“My dog was going crazy. I saw the bear gallop in the street,” she said. “My dog broke the leash and chased the bear up the tree and I came out to grab the dog.”
Seary said three police cars responded quickly, cordoning off the street while a crowd of onlookers gathered to keep an eye on the treed cub
Marge Scariati, who lives next door to Seary, said she woke up around 8:45 a.m. to the commotion outside her house. She peeked out her second-floor bedroom window, where she came eyeball to eyeball with the cub as it relaxed in the tree. He then climbed down to the street, where Westfield police officers, waiting for state game officials to arrive on the scene, urged onlookers to seek shelter.
The cub took off at about 9 a.m., running toward Garwood. Kenilworth resident Amanda Woloshon said she spotted the bear on Fourth Street in Garwood as she was driving to work in the Westfield office of U.S. Rep. Leonard Lance. Lance didn’t issue any statement about the bear’s unauthorized visit.
Garwood Police Chief Bruce Underhill confirmed that the bear was spotted in the borough around that time and Garwood police officers were part of the hunt.
At 9:30, Cranford resident Amy Owens said her dog began to bark uncontrollably. When she looked outside, she saw the cub resting on the fence in her back yard at the corner of Estelle and Orchard.
“The dog started going crazy, and I looked outside and the bear was just sitting on the fence,” Owens said, adding that Cranford Police arrived shortly afterwards and managed to frighten the bear into climbing a tree on Owens’ property.
“The last thing I expected to see was a bear in Cranford,” said Jon Suttili who was at his grandfather’s house next door. “We heard barking and the cops yelling at it. Our grandfather said there was a bear in a tree.”
The bear remained on a branch perpendicular to the street for about two hours while residents and police awaited the arrival of state wildlife officials. The bear was tranquilized and, after being secured, was transported to northern Morris County to be released.
Last night, a bear, described as “large, adult bear” was spotted by many Mountain Avenue merchants in Mountainside. The bear was spotted by a Mountainside public works staffer and a local businessman around 7 a.m. in Mountainside near the Westfield town line. State wildlife officials did not confirm if the two sightings were related.