LIVERMORE – “Lassie” came home Friday morning, much to the surprise of Goding Road residents.

Shortly after 7 a.m., Kelli Gats, David Mercier and Carl Harrington saw the radio-collared black bear that state biologists captured earlier this spring behind the Gats’ house at 293 Goding Road.

On Friday morning, Kevin Gats, 19, looked out the bathroom window and saw the sow. He told his mother, Kelli, who went to look.

As she rounded a corner to a glass door, she came face to face with the bear a few feet away. It was on all fours.

“We took our bird feeders down like we were told, but the bear came back,” William Gats said.

Mercier saw the sow next at about 7:10 a.m., on his lawn.

He called the bear “Lassie,” because Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife officials took her up to Parmachenee Township near the Canadian border and released her, hoping she’d stay put.

Before wildlife biologists could give the radio receiver for the collar to Warden Reggie Hammond in Rangeley, the bear had split for Rumford, bypassing Rangeley altogether, state biologist Chuck Hulsey said Friday.

“This has been the most complicated bear issue I’ve ever dealt with,” Hulsey said.

To wildlife biologists, the sow is known as “New Hampshire Bear 299,” because she was fed for several years by people in New Hampshire.

Wildlife officials there captured, tagged and released her. Last year, she showed up in the Livermore area with two new cubs.

Due to the age of the cubs, Maine wildlife officials left the bears alone and let them wander. This spring, they returned to the Gats’ home, which is in a heavily wooded area 1 mile from the Androscoggin River and downtown Livermore Falls.

William Gats said Friday that Maine wildlife officials caught all three bears in his yard this spring, but one cub escaped. The other cub was taken to a wildlife rehabilitator to get weaned off birdseed and learn how to survive in the wild.

Devin Harrington said his father, Carl Harrington, videotaped the bear eating from their suet-laced bird feeder in the front yard and posted the video on YouTube.

The healthy-looking bear is shown standing upright, bending the feeder over, shaking it and eating seed, then slowly walking across the Harrington driveway as the bird feeder wobbles back and forth.

“She’s a beautiful animal with a terrible birdseed habit,” Hulsey said. “She’s been heavily altered by humans, so all she cares about is getting calories and reproducing, and humans are providing the food, unintentionally or intentionally.”

Birdseed is food for wildlife, he said.

“You can’t dictate what wildlife will come to your backyard or not,” Hulsey said. “It makes life hard for us, and it’s sad that we have all these bear problems because of birdseed.”

Because the bear never stays put, she can’t be trapped, he said. She’s roamed through three of seven state warden districts and 10 game warden coverage areas.

If the bear will stay put long enough for them to trap her again, they’ll send her even farther north and release her one more time. The second option is to put her in a facility. Or, “the option none of us wants to do: euthanize her,” Hulsey said.

“She’s becoming more and more of a celebrity, and she’s on YouTube now, I hear,” Hulsey said. “She’s a rolling stone, and she’s on the move.”


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