Bears are attracted to garbage, pet food, compost piles, fruit trees, and birdfeeders. DO remove birdfeeders and bird food from late March through November. Bears in natural settings normally leave an area once they have sensed a human. If you see a bear, enjoy it from a distance. Aggression by bears towards humans is exceptionally rare. DO make your presence known by making noise while hiking. Hike in groups. If you see a bear, make noise and wave your arms so the bear is aware of your presence. Bears occasionally attack livestock (chickens, goats, etc.) and damage beehives. DO protect livestock with electric fencing and move livestock into barns at night if possible.
Bears are attracted to garbage, pet food, compost piles, fruit trees, and birdfeeders.
DO remove birdfeeders and bird food from late March through November.
Bears in natural settings normally leave an area once they have sensed a human. If you see a bear, enjoy it from a distance. Aggression by bears towards humans is exceptionally rare.
DO make your presence known by making noise while hiking. Hike in groups. If you see a bear, make noise and wave your arms so the bear is aware of your presence.
Bears occasionally attack livestock (chickens, goats, etc.) and damage beehives.
DO protect livestock with electric fencing and move livestock into barns at night if possible.
Where Are Black Bears Found in Connecticut?
Black bears occur throughout much of the state. Each year, bear sightings are reported from approximately 140 of the state’s 169 towns. Over 8,000 sightings were reported in 2018. Connecticut has a healthy and increasing bear population with the highest concentration in the northwest region of the state. View the list of black bear sightings in Connecticut.
Why Are Bears in My Neighborhood?
Many homes are in or near bear habitat. The bear population is healthy and increasing in Connecticut and sightings have become more common. Bears spend time in neighborhoods because food sources are abundant and easy to access (birdfeeders, garbage, open compost, grills, etc.) They will readily use these food sources and revisit the same location over and over again. Bears that are attracted to human-associated food sources may lose their fear of people. Both you and your neighbors need to take steps to make yards and neighborhoods less attractive to bears, mainly by removing any food sources. Black Bear Do’s and Don’ts.
What Should I Do if I See a Black Bear in My Yard?
If you see a black bear in your yard, enjoy the sighting from a distance and report your sighting. However, be sure you are not doing anything to attract the bear to your yard. Attempt to scare the bear off by making noise, such as banging pots and pans, shouting or using an air horn or whistle. Once the bear has left the area, take a close look at your yard for potential bear food sources, such as birdfeeders, pet food, dirty barbeque grills, open compost, or trash, and REMOVE those food sources IMMEDIATELY. Bears have incredible long-term memory and will revisit places where they have found food, even months or years later. Bears that are frequently fed, either intentionally or unintentionally through birdfeeders or garbage, may become habituated and lose their fear of people. If a bear behaves in a way that is a threat to public safety, it may have to be euthanized by the department.
If you choose to put out bird feeders, do so in the winter months from December through late-March when bears are in their dens. Although most bears enter dens at some point, some can remain active for portions of or the entire winter season if food is available. It is important that you remove bird feeders at the first sign of bear activity.
If you live in an area with bears, it is best to avoid bird feeders altogether. Bears that find bird feeders will often repeatedly visit the site in search of food day after day and year after year. Bird feeders and other bird food will attract bears closer to homes and humans. When bears begin to use human-associated food sources, they will frequent residential areas, lose their fear of humans, and not flee when harassed. They can even cause damage by breaking into outbuildings and homes in search of food.
For those who enjoy watching birds, establish native plants in your yard and add water features to attract birds. These methods may increase bird diversity and prevent unnatural feeding of a variety of wildlife species. Learn how you can bring wildlife to your yard with native landscaping.
Is It Safe to Hike, Run, Bike, or Walk My Dog in the Woods?
Yes! It is safe to enjoy the outdoors regardless of what region of the state you live in or are visiting. Dogs should always be on a leash and supervised so they can be kept under the owner’s direct control and avoid interactions with wildlife. When visiting areas where bears are more common, hike in groups and make your presence known by talking or singing. Keep small children close by and on trails. Although black bears have injured and even killed humans in North America, such cases are exceptionally rare. Always be aware of your surroundings and if you happen to encounter a bear, follow the advice offered in the next question.
What Should I Do if I Encounter a Bear While Out in the Woods or on a Trail?
Remain calm and observe the bear from a distance. Do not approach or try to get closer to a bear. If the bear is unaware of your presence, back away or make noise which will often cause the bear to flee. If the bear is aware of you and does not flee, talk to the bear in a calm voice and back away slowly. Never run or climb a tree. If the bear approaches, be offensive. Make more noise, wave your arms, and throw objects at the bear. Black bears rarely attack humans. However, if you are attacked, do not play dead. Fight back with anything available.
How Can I Protect Myself from Black Bears While Camping?
Keep your camp site clean! Pick up all garbage and food scraps and store them in wildlife resistant trash containers. Store food in double plastic bags or tightly sealed containers and keep it in your car if possible. Contained food can also be stored in a backpack and hung from a tree at least 10 feet above the ground and 4 feet from the tree trunk. Never store food in a tent. When camping, sleep at least 100 yards from your cooking area and food storage site. If this is not possible, take extra precautions to thoroughly clean and store away all cookware and pick up any food scraps.
A common misconception is that a tagged bear in Connecticut is a problem bear, and a bear with two ear tags was caught on two different occasions because it was causing problems. Actually, every bear receives two ear tags (one in each ear) the first time it is handled by DEEP, regardless of why it was tagged. Most tagged bears have not been caught as problem bears, but rather as part of a project to research the state’s bear population.
Ear tag color indicates the year the bear was tagged. For example, a bear with green tags was handled in 2019, and one with orange tags was handled in 2018, regardless of age, gender, or reason for tagging.
Each colored tag has a 3-digit number code. The last digit indicates the year, while the first 2 numbers indicate the sequence in which it was caught. For example, a bear with ear tag “03-6” would be the third bear handled in 2016, and a bear with ear tag “20-4” would be the twentieth bear handled in 2014.
Ear tags help biologists track bear movements and dispersal. Bears tagged in Connecticut have traveled as far as Vermont. Bears tagged in New York, Massachusetts, and even Pennsylvania have shown up in Connecticut. Ear tags can also help identify individual bears that have a repeated problem behavior.
A bear with a collar will also have ear tags. The collar helps biologists locate a bear and track its movements. Data collected from collars provide biologists with important information about the growth, movements, and health of Connecticut’s bear population.
Why Can’t a Problem Bear Be Relocated?
Relocation of Bears in Connecticut: Although heavily forested, Connecticut is a highly developed state. No large areas without humans are available to relocate a problem bear. Relocated bears seldom remain where they are released. Bears, particularly males, have a large home range of 12 to 60 square miles and travel long distances. They have a strong homing instinct and may return to where they were caught or become a problem somewhere else.
Relocation of Bears to other States: Black bears cannot be relocated to other states, including larger western states like Montana or Colorado, because other states will not accept any bears, especially problem bears. States with growing or large bear populations have similar policies as Connecticut’s. Other state wildlife agencies would also euthanize an aggressive bear that is a public safety concern.
Relocation of Bears to Zoos or Sanctuaries: The Connecticut DEEP does not take wild animals that have become unresolvable human safety issues into captivity. It may be a feel-good solution for a problem bear to be moved to a zoo or sanctuary, but that is easy to say and hard to do. Black bears are not a high priority species for zoos or sanctuaries because they are so common. Zoos also do not have the capacity to take all problem bears that states deal with each year. Because black bears readily reproduce in captivity, there is no shortage of captive bears for zoos. Animals that are raised in captivity do well in captivity. It is difficult for a wild bear that roams in the forest for all its life to suddenly adapt to a small enclosure at a zoo or sanctuary. Even under the best circumstances at the best zoos, captivity cannot replicate a wild animal’s habitat.
What Is Aversive Conditioning and Why Is It Used for Bears?
Aversive conditioning is a technique that uses negative stimuli (i.e., shooting with rubber bullets or paintballs, pepper spray, loud noises, etc.) to cause pain, avoidance, or irritation in an animal engaged in an unwanted behavior. The bear learns to associate the undesirable behavior with a negative experience, and as a result, is more likely to avoid conflict in the future. Research on this technique has shown it has limited effectiveness, but may be valuable in providing a short-term solution to human-bear conflicts.
Content last updated on September 10, 2019.