Black bear takes a dip in Stump Pond and a romp through nearby back yard

Black bear takes a dip in Stump Pond and a romp through nearby back yard

This black bear was in the Smithfield yard of Bill and Sue Pilkington last Saturday. It pulled down their bird feeder before wandering away. (Photo submitted by Bill Pilkington)

By GERRY GOLDSTEIN

Valley Breeze Correspondent

gerryg76@verizon.net

SMITHFIELD - Stump Pond offers no public swimming area, but that didn't stop a black bear from plunging in for a cool dip last Saturday.

On a weekend when bear sightings suddenly proliferated in northern Rhode Island, the bruin apparently ambled its way across town from morning to dusk, entering the water near the police station on Pleasant View Avenue and swimming to the Log and Mann School Road side of the pond.

A bear was the last critter Bill and Sue Pilkington expected to see as they sat on their deck after dinner that evening, shortly before 8 p.m.

But suddenly there it was - at an estimated 300 pounds-plus - in their back yard off Waterview Drive, behind the police station.

Bill, the town's information technology director who as part of his work manages the municipal website, grabbed a camera and snapped some pictures, some of which he posted online.

He said he and his wife - she's the town's human resources director - "had to look at each other to make sure we were seeing what we were seeing."

They watched as the bear strolled across the lawn and stood up on its hind legs, pulling down a 6-foot bird feeder pole and snuffling up the sunflower seeds before moseying off.

Pilkington, a retired town police officer who said he remembers only one other bear sighting in 23 years on the force, said the animal "bent that pole like it was nothing" and at least matched its height.

"I've seen bears in zoos that weren't as big as that one," he said.

Pilkington also posted a bear picture, showing it at the downed feeder, on Facebook, where it had piled up more than 30,000 viewings as fast as Monday afternoon.

Now, he says, "Every time we go out the door we look around first."

According to Smithfield Police Capt. Kenneth Brown, the bear attracted a knot of onlookers - including himself - as it swam in the pond behind the Log Road fire station with just its head visible.

Brown said calls about sightings began coming in at 10 a.m., with the animal spotted in the Lime Rock section and later on Old County Road, Farnum Pike near Town Hall, and then near the Esmond Post Office.

Todd Manni, the town's director of emergency management, advised anyone who sees a bear not to approach it, to take down bird feeders until fall, to secure garbage, and if an encounter seems imminent, "Retreat - and do it slowly."

He said it's wise to remember that bears can smell food from a considerable distance.

Manni said anyone who sees a bear should call the state Department of Environmental Management at 401-222-3070 or their local police.