New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos early this month advised the public that black bears are becoming increasingly active as the summer season ramps up, and homeowners can reduce the potential for human-bear conflicts by preventing bears from accessing food sources.
Commissioner Seggos said, “Witnessing a bear in the wild is exhilarating and far preferable to encountering a bear in suburban and urban areas. DEC encourages New Yorkers to help protect themselves, others, property, and bears this summer by reducing attractants, especially accessible sources of food, and the potential for human-bear conflicts that can result.”
In recent weeks, DEC has received numerous reports of bears entering suburban areas, breaking into buildings and vehicles, and approaching campsites in efforts to obtain food. Conflicts typically increase this time of year due to the dispersal of young bears from family groups, the onset of the breeding season, and a lull in natural food availability prior to the ripening of local berries.
These conditions occasionally cause bears to travel into unfamiliar areas. Bears will take advantage of anything they consider a food source as they travel, adding to the potential for conflict. The most common attractants are poorly stored garbage, bird feeders, messy grills, and pet food left outdoors. Once a bear finds these foods, it will often continue to return to the area.
When bears have access to human foods, it encourages behaviors that can put bears at risk. Bears that frequent developed areas are at greater risk of being hit by cars, illegally shot by people that believe them to be a threat, or euthanized if the bear becomes a real threat. In addition, bears that become accustomed to obtaining food near human spaces will sometimes break into homes or vehicles to get food.
Residents and visitors should take steps to avoid attracting and creating nuisance bears.
NEVER FEED BEARS INTENTIONALLY. Feeding bears intentionally is illegal and a ticketable offense. Bears that obtain food from humans will continue to seek food from humans and become nuisance bears.
The public is encouraged to take the following steps to avoid conflicts with bears:
Remove all bird feeders;
Keep garbage, grills, pet food, and birdseed inside a solid, secure structure (house, shed, garage, etc.);
If grills cannot be secured, move grills away from houses and remove grease traps after each use;
Put garbage on the curb the morning of collection, not the night before, and use bear-resistant trash containers; and
Close garage doors and ground-floor windows/doors at night.
Keep campsites as clean as possible;
Clean up after all meals immediately. Keep grills, pots, pans, cooking utensils, and wash basins clean when not in use;
Leave coolers and food inside car trunks or truck cabs;
Store food and coolers in food lockers when available;
NEVER keep food, coolers, or scented items in tents when camping. Store toiletries securely with coolers and food;
Do not put grease, garbage, plastic diapers, cans, bottles, or other refuse into the fireplace; and
Dispose of garbage in the campground's dumpsters every evening.
Pack a minimal amount of food. Use lightweight and dehydrated foods. Plan all meals to avoid leftovers;
Use bear-resistant food canisters, which are required in the Eastern High Peaks Wilderness of the Adirondack Park (Learn more at: DEC.NY.gov/Animals/7225.html);
Cook and eat before dark and cook away from campsites;
Avoid spills and drippings while cooking and do not pour grease into fire pits; and
Never leave food unattended.
If You Encounter a Bear
Don’t panic. Bears are likely just as afraid of people as people are of bears;
Never approach, surround, or corner a bear;
Back away slowly – do not run;
Do not throw backpacks or food at bears. If bears are rewarded with food, they will continue to seek food from people; and
If feeling threatened by a bear, raise your arms over your head to look bigger and yell loudly at the bear while slowly backing away.
More information on avoiding and creating conflicts with nuisance bears is available on DEC’s website at: DEC.NY.gov/Animals/6995.html.