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Mass. officials warn that bears are waking up — and they're especially hungry

A black bear eats trash after knocking over a trash bin in east Anchorage, Alaska. (AP Photo/Mark Thiessen)
A black bear eats trash after knocking over a trash bin in east Anchorage, Alaska. (AP Photo/Mark Thiessen)

Editor's Note: This is an excerpt from WBUR's daily morning newsletter, WBUR Today. If you like what you read and want it in your inbox, sign up here


Tickets for Tanglewood’s star-studded summer lineup go on-sale this morning at 10 a.m. Here’s how to get them before they hit the secondary market. Now, to the rest of today’s news:

Remember fat bear week? Well, now it’s hungry bear month. March is when well-rested bears begin to emerge from their winter dens to seek out food. And officials in Massachusetts are warning that they may be particularly hungry this season after a “meager” crop of acorns and other nuts last fall. For residents across much of the state, that means it’s time to take in your bird feeders and secure your trash, unless you’re seeking a close encounter with one of these several-hundred-pound animals (probably not advisable).

  • Where? State officials are advising everyone in northern Middlesex County, Worcester County, western Massachusetts or anywhere else where there’s been a recent bear spotting to take down their bird feeders — which bears see as an easy meal.
  • What if I still want to see birds? Try feeder alternatives like installing a water feature or growing native plants and shrubs.
  • PSA: Listen to this Radio Boston segment (beginning at the 31:30 mark) for tips on what to do if you spot a black bear.
  • The big picture: The black bear population in Massachusetts has boomed over the past several decades, thanks to the reforestation of old farmlands — plus easy access to dumpsters and trash. Officials say there are now over 4,500 bears in the state. Their territory is also expanding east, with the odd bear occasionally wandering as far as Boston’s inner suburbs and even the Cape.
Bear territory (Mass.gov)
Bear territory (Mass.gov)

The Boston City Council has signed off on Mayor Michelle Wu’s rent control proposal, passing the home rule petition yesterday with no amendments by an 11-2 vote. The plan would generally cap annual rent increases in Boston at a maximum of 10%, though there are a number of exemptions. And while some of the Council’s more progressive members said the plan doesn’t go far enough, they ultimately backed it as a necessary step to prevent extreme rent hikes most likely to displace residents.

  • Next stop, the State House: After Wu signs it, the measure will need approval from the House, Senate and Gov. Maura Healey. That’s where the real estate industry is focusing its lobbying efforts against it, saying it will depress needed housing production.
  • Wu argues their opposition is misplaced. “The reality is that the vast majority of good landlords in Boston are not increasing their rents by more than 10% a year,” she told reporters yesterday.
  • Not just rent control: The Council also passed a home rule petition to reorganize and shift the focus of the Boston Planning and Redevelopment Authority. WBUR’s Roberto Scalese has more here about the plan (which also needs State House approval).

The Massachusetts Senate is slated to take up their version of a short-term spending bill today that includes extending boosted food stamp payments for local recipients. Just like the bill passed by the House last week, the measure would use state funds to send SNAP recipients 40% of the extra emergency allotments they got during the pandemic, as the federal program reverts to normal levels.

  • The legislation could determine the future of another food-related pandemic-era program: to-go cocktails. According to The Boston Globe, the House bill would let restaurants sell takeout alcohol for another year — but the Senate bill does not. That has set up a lobbying fight between the restaurant industry and liquor stores. The to-go drink rule is currently set to expire when April hits.

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You’ll no longer need proof of COVID vaccination to enroll in a Massachusetts community college next fall. With the federal COVID emergency set to expire this spring, the leaders of the state’s 15 community colleges jointly plan to drop their vaccination mandates after the end of final exams this semester.

  • The group of community colleges is still “strongly” encouraging all community members to stay up to date on their COVID shots. Greenfield Community College President Michelle Schutt also told the Hampshire Gazette that temporary adjustments to the policy are possible if COVID spikes again in the future. But she added that she’s “hopeful that’s not where we’re headed.”

P.S.— Julian Shapiro-Barnum started his hit web series “Recess Therapy” for his senior thesis while studying at Boston University. Tonight, he’ll be back at Comm. Ave — at CitySpace talking to WBUR’s Ben Brock Johnson about how “Recess Therapy” has continued to churn out mega-viral hits for more than a decade. Get tickets here!

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Nik DeCosta-Klipa Newsletter Editor
Nik DeCosta-Klipa is the newsletter editor for WBUR.

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