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Authorities are imploring residents to take common-sense precautions to protect themselves from bears after a seven-year-old North Castle boy was attacked by a bear in the backyard of his home last week.
It is not known why or how the bear, described by North Castle Police Chief Peter Simonsen as a male that was older than a cub but not a full-grown animal, came out of the woods shortly after 11 a.m. on Aug. 22 and onto the Hickory Kingdom Road property. It attacked the child who was playing with a sibling.
The boy, who was not identified, was rushed to the hospital with “sizeable lacerations” but did not have life-threatening injuries, the chief said.
“The children were playing in the yard and then they realized there was a bear in close proximity to them,” Simonsen said. “Once they realized there was a bear there, they started to go to a place of safety but the bear gave chase.”
Once first responders arrived, the bear was still in the area and had to be killed by police.
By Wednesday afternoon, the Westchester County Department of Health confirmed that the bear tested negative for rabies.
“If you see an animal that is acting aggressively, stay away from it and contact local police immediately,” county Health Commissioner Dr. Sherlita Amler said.
County health officials and the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) urged residents never to feed or approach black bears; secure food, garbage and recycling; remove bird feeders when bears are active; never leave pet food outdoors; clean and store grills and smokers; and alert neighbors to bear activity.
However, it isn’t known why the bear became aggressive last week, Simonsen said. While bear sightings have become increasingly common in the area in recent years, Simonsen said this is the first time in memory that there has been a bear attack in the region.
BearWise, an informational website to bring greater awareness about bears to the public, which has partnered this year with the DEC, stated if a person has an encounter, “never run from a bear, don’t approach a bear – just quietly move away and leave the area. However, if a black bear does approach you, make yourself look big, make loud noises, clap your hands and continue to back away.”
According to information provided by the DEC, for black bears, which are native to New York State, causing serious property damage, entering vehicles or buildings or becoming aggressive around people and causing injuries are rare. Through last Wednesday, there have been 954 human-bear conflicts reported statewide this year, DEC statistics showed.
Last year, there were 1,254 conflicts from Jan. 1 through Aug. 31 throughout the state.
In Westchester County, through last Monday, there have been 10 conflicts, down from 40 last year.
The DEC estimates that there are between 6,000 and 8,000 black bears that live in New York State.
Fewer reports of human-bear conflicts have come from the public so far this year compared to last, likely because there were drought conditions last year, which increases the likelihood of interactions with humans, said DEC spokesman Denis Slattery.
The county Department of Health stated that any physical contact with a wild or unfamiliar animal should be reported to a healthcare provider. Any animal bites or contacts with animals suspected of having rabies must be reported to the Westchester County Department of Health at 914-813-5000, 24 hours a day.
Martin has more than 30 years experience covering local news in Westchester and Putnam counties, including a frequent focus on zoning and planning issues. He has been editor-in-chief of The Examiner since its inception in 2007. Read more from Martin’s editor-author bio here. Read Martin’s archived work here: https://www.theexaminernews.com/author/martin-wilbur2007/