ALBERTON — Bob Summerfield likes bears, but he’d prefer that they didn’t make a meal out of the fruit trees in his orchard.
That’s exactly what happened late last week at the Brovold Community Orchard in Alberton, when a black bear sow and her two cubs feasted on more than a dozen trees and inflicted major damage on many of them. Now, Summerfield and his wife, Jeanne — whose father, Norman Brovold, planted the trees — plan to make the orchard an example of so-called “Bear Smart” methods of reducing human-bear conflict around Alberton.
Bob, 73, is uniquely positioned to manage the hungry bruins: Before he retired from a career as a bear biologist, he worked as the U.S. Forest Service’s grizzly bear habitat coordinator for the Lower 48 states.
“I like bears,” he said on Tuesday at the apple, plum and pear orchard, which gives away thousands of pounds of fresh fruit annually. Seated in a lawn chair next to Jeanne, he stressed that theirs was not a battle between agriculture and bear. “These bears are just doing what bears do. It’s our responsibility to secure attractants, and so that’s why we’re putting up a fence.”