Sometimes it pays to leave work a little early. With upwards of 300 trick-or-treaters anticipated at our door soon after sundown, my wife had her hands full at home, so shortly after 4:00 p.m. I left the office and headed home along the winding road between mountain and river that constitutes the best 30-minute commute in the Northeast. About a mile or so north of Cornwall Bridge, just beyond the Housatonic Meadows campground, a great, dark shape lumbered onto the road and I slowed as a black bear crossed to the far side.
It was thick with winter fur and stored fat reserves and had red ear tags in either ear. I watched it slow as it entered the woods, and then much to my delight a half grown, shaggy cub came into view and dashed across the road to follow its mother. I waited to see if other cubs were in the queue but the reunited bears did not linger but headed deeper into the woods and up the shadowy slope toward the mountain.
Bears are increasingly common in the Litchfield Hills but I rarely encounter them. I saw a very young cub years ago in the northern Berkshires, also crossing a road but without any sign of its mother. These two were making use of a vast area of protected land, and even with Rte 7 snaking its way up the narrow gorge there is plenty of intact habitat for wide-ranging species like black bears. There are also many temptations for them, especially backyard grills and bird feeders. In fact, this species probably has more habitat that it could occupy here and in greater numbers than we humans will tolerate.
I will never tire of encounters like these, nor cease to marvel that these settled lands remain wild enough for creatures such as timber rattlesnakes and black bears. I watched until mother and cub disappeared beneath the leafless trees, and then went on my way smiling.