Wayne County residents have been reading about reports of bear sightings on social media and in the news over the last two weeks.
Now, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has stepped in issuing advice to prospective homeowners who might be concerned about a bear sighting in their backyard.
To put it simply, bear sightings in New York State are completely common.
New York is home to more than 6,000 bears that emerge from the winter denning period and need to replenish nutrients and body fat, according to the DEC.
They explain that bears may travel long distances to preferred habitats that vary from season to season. They also sometimes cross roads or pass through developed areas to find these habitat, and often find human foods readily accessible if homeowners do not take necessary precautions.
Bears can obtain necessary food from the forest but are intelligent and opportunistic animals that find and consume easily accessible foods including, but not limited to, bird feeders, garbage cans, dumpsters, barbeque grills, unsecured out-buildings, or vehicles containing food or waste. Once a bear learns to obtain food from people or certain structures, it is difficult to change the animal’s behavior. These bears are more vulnerable to motor vehicle collisions in populated areas, more likely to be killed, or may become a threat to public safety.
Nearly all negative bear encounters in New York are the result of hungry bears being attracted to human food sources. The simplest way to avoid a nuisance encounter is to remove potential food sources.
In some cases, the DEC is asked to relocate these bears.
However, bear relocations are rarely effective and can be dangerous. Relocated bears often return to their original capture site, or may simply continue their bad habits at a new location. Additionally, if the circumstances that led to the original problem are not corrected, other bears may be attracted to the site and conflicts will persist.
To reduce the chance of negative black bear encounters, DEC recommends:
- Never feed bears. It is illegal, dangerous and detrimental to bears.
- If bears are being fed in your area, or you suspect a nuisance bear situation, report it to DEC immediately.
- Take down bird feeders after April 1. Birds do not need supplemental food in the spring and summer, when natural foods are most abundant.
- Clean barbeque grills before nightfall and don’t forget the grease trap. If possible, store grills inside when not in use.
- Store garbage in a secure building.
- In areas near bear habitat, put garbage containers by the curb just before the scheduled pick-up-never the night before.
- In densely populated bear areas, consider using a certified bear-resistant garbage container.
- Clean garbage cans frequently with ammonia products.
- Do not burn garbage. It is illegal and can attract bears.
- Do not add meat scraps, bones, or melon rinds to compost piles.
- Feed pets indoors and store pet food indoors. If pets must be fed outside, immediately remove all uneaten food and dishes.
- It is important to appreciate and respect black bears as wild animals, from a distance.
It is dangerous and illegal to intentionally feed bears. The incidental, indirect feeding of black bears, such as with bird feeders or garbage is also unlawful, according to the DEC.