With the weather continuing to warm up and black bears coming out of their winter hibernation, the Connecticut State Department of Energy and Environmental Protection is warning residents to be wary of their hungry neighbors.
An alert was issued this week by DEEP, reminding residents to take certain measures to reduce encounters and potential conflicts with wandering bears, whose population has increased in recent years.
Officials have estimated that approximately 700 black bears call Connecticut home, with that population growing approximately 10 percent annually. In 2018, there was approximately 9,200 reputed bear sightings in 153 of Connecticut’s 169 municipalities.
According to the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, local residents should:
- Never feed bears;
- Take down, clean, and put away bird feeders by late March, or even earlier during mild weather. Store the feeders until late fall. Clean up spilled seed from the ground;
- Store garbage in secure, airtight containers inside a garage or storage area if possible. Adding ammonia to cans and bags 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;
- Protect beehives, livestock (including backyard chicken coops), and berry bushes from bears with electric fencing;
- Supervise dogs at all times when outside. Keep dogs on a leash when walking and hiking. A roaming dog might be perceived as a threat to a bear or its cubs;
- Do not leave pet food outdoors;
- Keep barbecue grills clean. Store grills inside a garage or shed;
- Avoid placing meat scraps or sweet foods in compost piles.
DEEP said that if one encounters a bear while hiking, one should make their presence known by yelling or making other noises.
" Never attempt to get closer to a bear to take a photo or video. If a bear does not retreat, slowly leave the area and find an alternate hiking route," DEEP officials noted. "If the bear persistently approaches, be offensive towards the bear – make loud noises, wave your arms, and throw sticks or rocks. Never run. While camping, keep a clean campsite, and make sure food and garbage are inaccessible by keeping food in a cooler stored in the trunk of a car and never having food in a tent."
DEEP Deputy Commissioner Susan Whalen said that "now is the time to take down your bird feeders and, if possible, store your trash barrels in a garage or shed, if you haven’t done so already. If you genuinely care about bears, you should never feed them – either intentionally or unintentionally.
"Bears become habituated, losing their fear of humans, when attracted to homes by easily-accessible food sources. Habituated bears spend more time in neighborhoods and near people, increasing the potential for negative interactions with humans, the likelihood of property damage, and the possibility that the bears may be hit and killed by vehicles or meet with some other misfortune.”
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