Commission Offers Tips for Dealing with Black Bears

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RALEIGH, N.C. (April 29, 2008)– With the number of bears – and people – increasing in the western part of the state, the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission is warning people not to feed animals, either purposely or inadvertently, that wander into residential areas.

While black bears are rarely aggressive toward people, they can become bold when they are used to feeding on human-provided foods, such as garbage and bird seed.

“Feeding a bear rewards it for coming in close proximity to you and your home,” said Michael Juhan, a commission biologist. “When the food becomes unavailable, the bear may resort to damaging items around your property in search of it. In addition, bears feeding on unnatural food sources around your home may cause them to lose their fear of humans and approach them – a situation that rarely ends well for the bear and could have potential safety issues for humans as well.”

Contrary to popular belief, commission employees will not trap and relocate bears who are a nuisance for homeowners and residents, because this would simply move the problem, rather than solve it. The solution is to modify your habits, such as how you feed your pet(s) or where you store your garbage, before a problem begins. If a bear appears in the neighborhood, immediately remove all unnatural food sources so that the bear will be encouraged to move on. These solutions are much better for the neighborhood and for the bears.

Over the past decade, the commission has received a 70 percent increase in the number of complaints of human-bear conflicts in western North Carolina, including bears rummaging through trash cans, tearing down bird feeders, peering in doors and windows and frightening homeowners.

However, many of the incidents, most of which occur in the spring and summer, can be resolved if residents take just a few simple steps.

They include:

  • Secure bags of trash inside cans stored in a garage, basement or other secure area, and place outside as late as possible on trash pick-up days – not the night before.
  • Purchase bear-proof garbage cans or bear-proof your existing garbage container by outfitting it with a secure latching system.
  • Discontinue feeding wild birds during spring and summer, even with feeders advertised as “bear proof.” Bears can still be attracted to seed that spills on the ground.
  • Do not “free-feed” pets outdoors. If you must feed pets outdoors, make sure all food is consumed.
  • Clean all food and grease from barbecue grills after each use. Bears are attracted to the food odors and may investigate.

For more information on coexisting with black bears, click here.