'Heartbreaking': Residents react after black bear Pumpkin is killed by hunter

HANSON — Residents are reacting with anger and sadness after the news that a hunter took down Pumpkin the bear two weeks ago in Hanson.

MassWildlife biologist and bear expert David Wattles announced the news as part of a talk on living with black bears via Zoom last Wednesday.

"We received a harvest (killing) report that a bear had been taken last week (Monday, Nov. 6) in Hanson," Wattles said in an interview with The Patriot Ledger last Thursday.

After the news was announced, residents took to Facebook to mourn the death of Pumpkin, who had become somewhat of a local celebrity amongst them as they fondly followed the bear's movements by sharing photos and videos on resident Facebook pages.

Here’s what residents had to say about their favorite neighborhood bear, Pumpkin.

More: Hunter kills black bear with bow and arrow in Hanson

Pumpkin the bear pictured in Hanson, MA.
Pumpkin the bear pictured in Hanson, MA.

Residents fall for their local black bear

Throughout late summer and fall, local black bears have made numerous appearances on popular resident Facebook pages, including South Shore Bear Sightings with more than 800 members and Where is NE Black Bear with more than 4,800 members.

Comments like “poor baby is hungry” and “what a beautiful coat he has” were written on a photo of a black bear eating from a bird feeder at a residence in Pembroke in August. In another video of a black bear lounging in a backyard in Pembroke, comments like “I’m coming over,” “he looked very cuddly,” and “so cute” were posted.

Over time, a large black bear who was repeatedly seen eating pumpkins from resident’s doorsteps and backyards, was given the name Pumpkin by the public.

Pumpkin the bear got his name after being spotted eating resident's decorative pumpkins.
Pumpkin the bear got his name after being spotted eating resident's decorative pumpkins.

Pumpkin becomes a problem, residents disagree

After the Hanson Police Department announced that Pumpkin would be euthanized after a recent string of attacks on livestock, residents were not happy.

The announcement, which was posted on the Hanson Police Department’s Facebook account earlier this month, received 1,000 comments, more than 500 reactions, and more than 200 shares.

Most of the comments expressed were of outrage and disappointment over the announcement and many questioned officials’ decision to kill the bear.

More: Why Hanson officials plan to kill local black bear nicknamed Pumpkin. Residents react

“Is there a bear refuge or wildlife society that can come intervene and save this animal?” one woman wrote. “I feel like you’re taking the easiest way out. It’s easier to euthanize the animal than take steps to have him relocated,” she continued.

“Relocate him, please. The bear is just being a bear,” commented another.

One man even wrote into The Enterprise to offer to pay for the animal’s relocation.

The same day Hanson police made the announcement, Hanson resident Rachel Baird created a petition on change.org titled “Prevent the Unnecessary Killing of Pumpkin the Bear by Hanson Police.” The petition received 1,299 signatures.

Pumpkin the bear was spotted in resident's backyards in Southeastern, MA in the summer and fall.
Pumpkin the bear was spotted in resident's backyards in Southeastern, MA in the summer and fall.

A hunter takes down Pumpkin

While the turmoil caused by Hanson police’s announcement continued, without the public’s knowledge, a hunter had actually used a bow and arrow to kill what is believed to be Pumpkin earlier in the month.

"Based on the size in the report of 300 pounds, we're very confident it is the same bear, but we can't 100% confirm that," Wattles said.

Beyond the size, he and others compared the bear that had been killed to images of Pumpkin that has been posted online. Wattles says the male bear was about 4 years old.

Pumpkin was killed during the second round of the bear hunting season, which began Nov. 6 and runs until Nov. 25. It allows using rifles, arrows, and muzzleloaders.

Wattles said the hunter who killed Pumpkin has agreed to submit a tooth sample, but the bear's official age won't be known until late summer, he said.

Pumpkin the bear was spotted going after a pumpkin on someone's doorstep.
Pumpkin the bear was spotted going after a pumpkin on someone's doorstep.

Residents mourn the death of their favorite bear

Many residents and Pumpkin lovers took to Facebook to express their sadness over Pumpkin’s death. “Our beloved Pumpkin has been killed. What a sad tragic ending to this magnificent misunderstood creature’s life,” wrote one woman. “Some will be happy to hear this news, but many others like myself will be devastated by it."

Comments like "so sad," "heartbreaking" and "what a shame" riddled the neighborhood Facebook pages. One resident even posted a compilation slideshow of photos of the bear throughout the summer and fall.

Pumpkin the bear with a piece of trash in his mouth.
Pumpkin the bear with a piece of trash in his mouth.

Learning from Pumpkin's life and death

Some residents also took the time to reflect on Pumpkin's life and death, including the weeks-long debate and argument over Hanson Police's announcement that he would be killed the next time he posed a public safety threat.

While the hunter taking down Pumpkin couldn't be controlled, Wattles and Hanson's police chief say Pumpkin's problematic behavior of attacking livestock and getting too comfortable with humans, which led to some of the bear's publicity, could have been.

“Thankfully, but at [Pumpkin’s] expense, people have learned that they have to take responsibility and preventative measures to secure their yards and livestock from wildlife such as bears,” a resident wrote on Facebook.

"We recommend residents remove food sources around their homes, like bird feeders, which train the bear to come into your yard to try to find food, increasing the chances of an interaction,” Wattles said.

“Shooting the bear doesn’t get to the root problem, which is an unsecured food source," Wattles said of a bear that was shot by a hunter in Kingston earlier in the year. "We try to work with people who have backyard chickens or bees to use electric fencing, but it can also be used for larger livestock as well."

Wattles recommends every resident educate themself on what preventative measures to take and how to implement them to successfully live with black bears.

“Bears are a native wildlife species in Massachusetts and having the full complement of wildlife in our natural areas is important. Even though Southeastern Massachusetts is highly developed, there’s still a lot of forested natural habitat. It’s my option that a bear has a role to play in there.”

Enterprise staff writer Amelia Stern can be reached by email at astern@enterprisenews.com.

This article originally appeared on The Enterprise: Hanson black bear: Hunter kills Pumpkin, residents react