Video shot by Loretta Powers.

They honor the honor system, leaving money in a box.

But lately the pie stand has attracted a pie-hungry bear, which has crossed the highway — looking out for traffic — and taken pies. It appears to be smarter than the average bear.

The pie stand, operated by Mary Jo Kelly, is at 806 Bear River Road (Route 26), which leads to Grafton Notch State Park.

On July 18, broker Lorie Olson of Bearfoot Realty took friends on a hiking trail. A member of the Mahoosuc Land Trust, it was Olson’s week to monitor the Step Falls trail.

After hiking, she showed off points of interest, including her favorite, the pie stand. “It’s a fun place to stop,” she said. “They have quite a business.”

As her vehicle approached the stand, she and friend Adriana Moreno yelled, “A bear! A bear! A bear!”

The bear was running away from the pie stand and crossing the street, Olson said. It had discarded a pie that was partially eaten. It was a mixed-berry pie.

The bear ran into the woods, Olson said. It looked well-fed, she said.

Later that same day, just before dusk, Newry town administrator Loretta Powers got a call from a brother near the pie stand who mentioned, “Oh, there’s a bear here.”

Powers lives close to the pie stand. She told her husband. They drove over in their Jeep (just in case) and pulled into the stand’s driveway.

No one was home, but the bear was still there.

“The bear was across the street, in the trees, trying to cross the road,” Powers said. “He was road smart,” dodging traffic. “We watched him for 20 minutes. Finally, he came across to the pie stand and picked up a pie.”

It was blueberry.

Powers and her husband tried to scare the bear away so it wouldn’t keep eating. “There wouldn’t be anything left,” Powers said.

It probably ate four to six pies, judging by the empty pie tins they later found in the trees. They took the pies and cookies indoors and left a note for the stand’s owner. The stand owner’s mother sent Powers a Facebook message asking how to keep the bear away, Powers said.

The bear hung around for a week, but it hasn’t been seen recently, Powers said. Bears aren’t uncommon sights in Western Maine, especially this time of year when raspberries and blueberries ripen, Powers said.

Kelly, who built the stand in 2000, said this was not the first time she had been burglarized by a bear.

“We had a bear that got away with a couple of our pies seven or eight years ago,” Kelly said. “There’s still claw marks on the door from when he visited. Every now and then, some kids will steal a pie from our stand, but it’s pretty rare that we get a bear visit.

“Usually, we keep (the pies) out until the sun goes down,” Kelly said. “We try to leave them out for as long as possible for the people coming back from work, or returning from Old Orchard Beach, but we really don’t want the bear coming back, so we’re bringing the pies in a little earlier each day.”

Bloggers and hikers have written about her pie stand, calling it “a hidden gem” and raving about the delicious pies, jams and cookies.

Kelly said she and her employees typically make about 2,000 pies per summer.

After watching Powers’ video of the bear crossing the street and getting the pie, Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife biologist Jennifer Vashon said the bear appears to be a young adult, weighing about 200 pounds.

“The good news is it’s acting like we would expect,” Vashon said. “It seemed cautious. Once it was aware someone was there, it ran.”

What’s concerning, Vashon said, is that once bears have access to food, they lose their fear of people.

You can’t blame the bear. Why settle for berries when there’s pie?

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Maine bears

Maine Black Bears have a strong sense of smell and hearing, similar to a dog’s, but they don’t see well.

“That’s why a bear gets up on its hind legs. It has small eyes,” Maine Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Department biologist Jennifer Vashon said.

The bear population is mostly in Northern and Western Maine but is growing, making bear sightings more common, Vashon said. In 2004, Maine’s bear population was 23,000; today, it’s estimated at 30,000.

Bears generally run from people but will venture near if there’s food.

When a bear has access to food near people, it gets used to people and associates them with food, Vashon said. Some people have worsened the problem by feeding bears, which in other states have led to the animals needing to be captured and put down. “Fortunately, in Maine, it’s not common,” Vashon said.

She recommends people keep all food, including bird food and livestock, indoors if bears are near or sighted.

If you see a bear, speak to it in a calm voice and slowly back away, Vashon said. If a bear acts aggressive, “stand your ground and make loud noises, wave your arms and fight back with any means: a rock, a stick.”

Bear attacks in Maine are rare; no one has died from a bear attack, Vashon said.

The only fatality related to a bear was in the 1800s when a child died after falling from a wagon when a bear spooked the horses, Vashon said. “There’s just been a handful of unprovoked bear attacks over the years, all minor injuries.”

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