WESTFORD, MASS. (WHDH) - As the population of bears in eastern Massachusetts continues to grow, state wildlife officials are preparing for possible fatal encounters.

Officials don’t want residents to be overly alarmed, but they say the chance for a fatal attack is very real.

“If in fact someone did die from one of these situations, then the DA’s office would likely be involved, especially if it was an unattended death,” said Michael Huguenin of Mass. Wildlife. “It would literally become a crime scene.”

Wildlife officials met with environmental police Tuesday to develop a plan to prevent bear attacks. There are at least 4,000 in Massachusetts, a tally that’s up from about 100 in the 1970s.

Black bears weighing up to 400 pounds are appearing more often in suburban areas. Just this past weekend, a Westford resident recorded one as it roamed through her yard.

Officials say it is rare for a bear to attack a person, but they are still taking precautions as sightings continue to climb. Bears have also been spotted in Lawrence, Chelmsford, Worcester and Acton in the last year.

Residents are urged to secure bird feeders, trash cans and other items that could possibly attract bears.

There has never been a fatal bear attack in Massachusetts.

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