The BlueStone Press received a reader photo from Julie Puppolo recently that showed a bear with a chicken feeder stuck on its head. Puppolo introduced us to Kristie L Hendricks-Davis, who has been working with the DEC on helping this bear remove the chicken feeder. Hendricks-Davis reached out to the DEC, and they came out to set up a bear trap (pictured) on her property with delicious bait to attract the bear that she has named Willa.
Hendricks-Davis decided to name the bear Willa after she tried Wilbur (the name of a beloved horse) but found out through the DEC that the bear was female. Hendricks-Davis mentioned that she plans on getting a tattoo of Willa with the feeder on her head.
Having the bear trap on her property has been “a little like having an infant,” she said, due to her waking up whenever her security camera gets tripped by anything as small as a moth, or by larger animals like a particular raccoon that Hendricks-Davis has named Sid. Sid keeps getting trapped while gorging himself on Willa’s bait. In the event of an animal getting trapped in the device (like Sid did multiple times) meant for Willa there is a loud steel clang, and Hendricks-Davis comes out, releases the animal inside, and resets the trap for Willa.
This is the first bear that Hendricks-Davis has seen in 17 years. She initially saw Willa without the chicken feeder on her head. After that encounter, though, Willa must have wanted a bite of the chickens’ food and bit off more than she could chew, with the cone becoming stuck on her head.
There is some delicious bait set up in the trap to catch Willa as soon as possible, including, as pictured, doughnuts and cakes that the DEC is using to attract her. Hendricks-Davis said, “They are also using sprays that smell like strawberries and bacon.”
This combo has lured Willa toward the trap and even into the trap, but she has not triggered the trap yet, possibly due to her not being hungry enough. Hendricks-Davis has encouraged neighbors to secure their trash as much as possible to encourage Willa to be hungry enough to go for the sugary goodness in the trap.
When Willa is eventually captured the DEC will sedate her, cut the chicken feeder off her head, and release her. Then the DEC will haze Willa by shooting her with rubber buckshot to discourage her from coming near homes again.
The DEC says in its 2020 guidance to reduce bear conflicts, “Feeding bears intentionally is illegal and a ticketable offense.” The DEC also says that if you encounter a bear you should “raise your arms over your head to look bigger and yell loudly at the bear while slowly backing away.” The DEC says in this guidance that if you encounter a bear that is reluctant to leave the area, like Willa is, you should “call the regional wildlife office during business hours, or call the DEC Law Enforcement Dispatch Center at 1-844-332-3267.”
DEC did not respond to a request for comment in time for print.