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A Bear Comes to Brookline

Captured in backyard of BU trustee

Brookline Black Bear, Brookline, MA

A wayward black bear, previously roaming around Cape Cod, takes refuge in the Brookline backyard of Alan and Sherry Leventhal. Photo by Mark Garfinkel, Boston Herald

It is 100 miles from the central Massachusetts woodlands to the towering pine tree behind a large Brookline home, but the determined black bear who braved the trek got what he was after: a neighborhood with no other bears. In fact, the inhabitants nearest to the creature’s finely landscaped destination are Alan and Sherry Leventhal, well-known for their generosity to nonprofit institutions, and not entirely unwelcoming to 180-pound woodland creatures.

Major Wil Gray, inland bureau chief of the Massachusetts Environmental Police, says the Leventhals’ uninvited guest is the same animal that had become semi-famous for his much watched march across Cape Cod two weeks ago. The bear was captured in Wellfleet on June 11, and released the next day at an undisclosed location in central Massachusetts. Monday evening, the Brookline Police started getting reports of a large furry creature roaming the Chestnut Hill area. Gray told the Boston Globe that with roughly 4,000 bears living mainly in the western part of the state and the bear population growing more than 5 percent a year, the wanderer was probably traveling east in search of an area he could call his own.

What the bear found was a lovely space that the Leventhals have been calling their own. And while the couple is famous for sharing—in 2004, they donated $5 million to BU to serve as seed money for the University’s $15 million Fund for Leadership and Innovation, and in 2009 they pledged an additional $10 million to motivate substantial parallel gifts for student financial aid and professorships—sharing their backyard with a five-foot-tall bear was a bit much.

When the front gate bell rang at 7 a.m. on Tuesday, BU trustee Alan Leventhal (Hon.’09) was out of town, so it was Sherry Leventhal who answered the call.

“They said, ‘We are with the Brookline Police, and we think there is a bear in your yard,’” says Leventhal, who serves on the BU School of Medicine Dean’s Advisory Board. “I thought someone was kidding.”

Then she looked out the window into the backyard and thought again. “I saw something run across the yard,” she says. “It ran into the bushes and then it climbed a tree.”

Leventhal says the bear perched in the tree for two hours while police waited for a sharpshooter with tranquilizer darts and a crowd gathered outside.

“I wouldn’t let anyone in the yard, but out on Pine Road it was a zoo,” she says. “Once it had been shot, the bear climbed another 20 feet, then fell to the ground.”

The animal was placed on a bed of ice and driven off, to be released into the wild once again. But before the police left, Sherry Leventhal did one more thing. “I called Alan,” she says. “I told him, I can’t believe you left me all alone in the wilds of Brookline.”

Alan Leventhal, CEO of the Boston-based real estate investment firm Beacon Capital Partners, is also involved in the Neighborhood House Charter School, in Dorchester, and City Year, a Boston-based nonprofit that trains and sends tutors to work with children throughout the United States and South Africa. He has been a member of BU’s Board of Trustees since 1995 and was chair from 2003 to 2008. He was awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws degree at the University’s 2009 Commencement.

Art Jahnke

Art Jahnke can be reached at jahnke@bu.edu.

One Comment on A Bear Comes to Brookline

  • PK on 06.28.2012 at 9:17 am

    Smarter than your average bear!

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