Unusual bear sighting a sensation in Cape Cod

The biggest sensation on Cape Cod right now isn't the lobster, the lighthouses or the sand dunes. It's not even a Kennedy.

It's a bear.

A bruin believed to have swum about 500 feet across the Cape Cod Canal from the mainland in late May has captured the imagination of residents as it traipses across the peninsula. Officials say research dating to the 1700s suggests this is the first bear on the Cape.

Boston-area newscasts are featuring daily updates on the bear's whereabouts, and a Cape Cod Bear Twitter feed has nearly 1,300 followers.

"Well, my goodness. How often do you see a bear on Cape Cod?" said Marion Larson, a spokeswoman for the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife. "It's really cool, and people are really excited about it."

A Cape Cod Times reporter told the paper she spotted the bear around 6 a.m. Thursday and said it bounded across the road like a puppy.

The bear, likely a male about 3 years old, has been seen near a chicken coop, a cranberry bog, a golf course and more than a dozen other locations along a 60-mile stretch of the Cape.

Now that the bear has reached the tip of the Cape, wildlife officials say they may attempt to immobilize and move it to an area where other bears live. Bears don't generally turn around and go back where they came from, and he can't go any farther east.

"He's at the end of the line, as far as real estate," Larson said.

But Provincetown police Officer Ruth Anne Cowing, who handles animal control duties for the town, said officials there are hoping the bear will retrace its steps and get out of town. So far it's stayed mostly in the woods and retreated every time it's seen a person.

"Now he's at the very end, so he needs to make a decision or we'll make it for him," she said. "We think he's here looking for a mate ... We're hoping he realizes he's the only one here, and he turns around and goes back home."

Cowing usually handles calls about dogs, foxes and raccoons. She's already had four reports this week of bear sightings.

"We're all really excited about the bear," she said. "It's so unusual to have that species down here."

The running joke in Provincetown, a gay vacation destination, is that the animal should stick around for a July event dedicated to men known as bears, who embrace natural body hair.

"The big joke is he's six weeks early for bear week in Provincetown," Cowing said.