DEEP: DEP Reminds Residents to be Bear Aware

May 8, 2007

DEP Reminds Residents to Be Bear Aware

Appearance of Bears This Spring Prompts Precautions

With the tranquilization and removal of a 200-pound black bear from a highly residential area of Hamden today, the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) reminds Connecticut residents that bears are active this time of year looking for food, territory and mates.

As the bears emerge from their winter dens natural foods are typically scarce and as a result, they are often attracted to human-provided foods found near homes. The stateís bear population, which is estimated to be at least 300, continues to grow and expand, increasing the need for people to know how to prevent problems. In 2006, over 2,000 sightings of bears were reported from 125 of Connecticutís 169 towns.

This year there have already been several instances of bears coming into populated areas and interacting with humans and animals including the bear in Hamden and others across the state. The bear tranquilized and relocated in Hamden this morning was near Lexington Avenue and Dixwell Avenue. The DEP does not normally tranquilize and relocate bears unless they are a nuisance or in a heavily populated area.

"As the bear population increases, conflicts with humans are inevitable. However, many of these conflicts are preventable," said Dale May, Director of the DEP Wildlife Division. "Most problems occur when bears are attracted close to homes by human-provided food sources. If bears find food rewards near homes, they can become habituated and lose their fear of humans. The best step in preventing problems with bears is to avoid intentionally or unintentionally feeding bears so that a healthy respect and distance is maintained between humans and bears."

Homeowners can often prevent bear problems by making unavailable or simply removing food attractants that draw bears into populated areas. The two most common attractants are bird feeders and household garbage. Residents who maintain backyard birdfeeders should take down their feeders in spring and store them until late fall. Wild birds do not require this supplemental food during spring, summer, and fall. Garbage should be stored in a garage or secure shed. Airtight containers or adding ammonia to garbage can reduce unwanted visits by bears and other wildlife.

Although birdfeeders and garbage are the most common, homeowners should be aware of other potential attractants. These include pet or livestock food stored outdoors, grease and drippings on barbecue grills, sweet or fatty food scrapes placed on compost piles, and fruit on or fallen from trees.

Bears also have been known to attack and kill livestock, such as sheep, goats, pigs, and fowl, as well as destroy unprotected beehives. One of the best precautions for these problems is well-maintained electric fencing. Other recommendations for livestock growers include moving animals into sheds at night, keeping feed contained, keeping animals as distant from forested areas as possible, and guard dogs.

"To assure the welfare of bears and the people who live near them, public tolerance and understanding of bears is critical," stressed May. "Learning to live with bears requires all of us to take the proper precautions for preventing problems."

The DEP encourages residents to take the following simple steps to avoid problems with black bears:

  • Never intentionally feed bears to attract them to your yard for viewing.
  • Take down, clean, and put away birdfeeders by late March. Store the feeders until late fall. Clean up spilled seed below feeder stations.
  • Store garbage in secure, airtight containers inside a garage or storage area. Double bagging and the use of ammonia will reduce odors that attract bears. Periodically clean garbage cans with ammonia to reduce residual odor. Garbage for pickup should be put outside the morning of collection and not the night before.
  • Avoid leaving pet food or dishes outdoors at night.
  • Clean barbecue grills after use and store inside a garage or shed.
  • Avoid placing meat scraps or sweet foods in compost piles.
  • Protect beehives, livestock, and berry bushes from bears with electric fencing.
  • Keep dogs on a leash outdoors. A roaming dog might be perceived as a threat to a bear or its cubs.

Although black bears regularly travel near houses, they are rarely aggressive towards humans. Homeowners can try to frighten bears with loud noises, but it is not uncommon for bears that have found food, such as birdseed from feeders, to ignore such disturbances.

If you encounter a bear while hiking, make your presence known by yelling or making other loud noises. Usually, a bear will move from an area once it detects humans. If a bear does not retreat, slowly leave the area and find an alternate hiking route. While camping, be aware that most human foods are also attractive to bears. Keep a clean campsite, and store food and garbage away from your campsite and in secure containers (for example, in a cooler stored in the trunk of a car).

The DEP Wildlife Division monitors the black bear population through sighting reports received from the public. Anyone who observes a black bear in Connecticut is encouraged to report the sighting on the DEPís website (www.ct.gov/dep), or call the Wildlife Divisionís Sessions Woods office, at    (860) 675-8130 (Mon.-Fri. from 8:30 AM-4: 30 PM). The DEPís 24-hour dispatch line (860-424-3333) can be called at night and on the weekend or in case of an emergency situation. Some bears have been ear-tagged for research. Information on the presence or absence of tags on bears is valuable. To obtain informational fact sheets about bears, visit the DEPís website or call the Sessions Woods office.