EPPING — Isobel Parke has no proof, but she has a hunch that a purse-snatching black bear may be on the loose in her neighborhood.
Several bear sightings have been reported in town in recent weeks, including in the area of the 699 blueberry bushes at her farm on Blake Road.
When her purse turned up missing Sunday night after she accidentally left it sitting on the steps in front of the door at her house, Parke began to suspect that a bear may be to blame.
She was so convinced, that she reported her suspicion to police this week.
“I have no proof that a bear took it, but there’s no other explanation that I can think of,” Parke said.
A bear has been spotted wandering around her property and even ripped down one of her bird feeders and another feeder at a neighbor’s house.
Police have received reports of bear sightings on Main Street, Elm Street, and in the area of Long Meadow Farm Drive near Hamilton Heights.
While there have been numerous sightings, police Capt. Jason Newman said there have been no incidents.
“We suggest staying away from them and consider bringing in bird feeders and storing trash where the bear cannot get to it,” Newman said.
Parke’s purse vanished after she arrived home around 8 p.m. Sunday and set it down on the steps while opening her door.
“I dropped my bag on the steps and then forgot to pick it up,” she said.
Parke discovered her purse missing Monday and began to suspect a bear. Her house sits off the road and she doesn’t believe anyone would have seen the purse sitting there.
Parke hopes her purse shows up soon, but at the moment she hasn’t found any sign of it.
“It’s just puzzling,” she said.
Mark Ellingwood, chief of the state Fish and Game’s Wildlife Division, said a bear carrying off a purse wouldn’t be a common behavior, but then again, bears are known to haul away bird feeders and other things with scents that attract them.
He’s not aware of any cases involving bears stealing purses, but he said it’s possible that a bear found an “interesting scent” and carried it off.
“It would be an extraordinarily uncommon event, but that said, who knows?,” he said.
When bears do take items, they often bring them to a spot where they rifle through them in their hunt for food. They could carry the item 35 yards or even 100 yards away, Ellingwood said, and once they find what they’re looking for, they’ll take what they want and leave the rest behind.
“They’re not collectors of interesting things. They don’t carry things that don’t provide them with the right source of nutrition,” he said.