Bear sightings: What to do if you come across a black bear

A photo of a Black bear, from CT DEEP website.

A photo of a Black bear, from CT DEEP website.

We’re all used to coexisting in our suburban neighborhoods with certain kinds of wildlife. We often spot deer, see a few wild turkeys or hear a raccoon foraging through our garbage cans.

But we likely don’t expect to see a bear running across Route 25, as was the case last week. Motorists in Trumbull called police when they saw a bear near Route 111 and Route 25. In Monroe, a bear was spotted in a family’s backyard and sightings were also reported in Easton.

As Connecticut’s bear population continues to increase, more bears, particularly young bears, will be seen near residential areas, according to the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. Sightings should be reported to the DEEP Wildlife Division, at (860) 675-8130.

The DEEP’s response will depend on the specifics of each bear situation. The mere presence of a bear does not necessitate its removal, according to the state agency. In most cases, if left alone, the bear will make its way to a more natural habitat. Removing food attractants, such as bird feeders, reduces the chance that bears will go near homes.

However, the DEEP may remove a bear in an urban location when there is little likelihood that it can leave safely on its own and when the bear is in a position where it can be safely immobilized. DEEP Tranquilizing Teams, consisting of Environmental Conservation Police officers and wildlife biologists, are trained and equipped to immobilize wildlife. Bears cannot be relocated to another state because no other state allows it. Bears that have persistent, serious behavior, such as killing protected livestock or entering buildings, may have to be destroyed.

If you see a bear, the DEEP suggests you enjoy it from a distance, advertise your presence by shouting and waving your arms or walk slowly away. Never attempt to feed or attract bears.

Bear attacks on humans are exceptionally rare, the DEEP says. In most hiking areas, bears normally leave once they have sensed a human. However, at campsites and campgrounds bears can be attracted by poorly stored food and garbage. If you see a bear when hiking or camping, make your presence known by making noise and waving your arms. If you surprise a bear at close range, walk away slowly while facing the bear. Do not run, the DEEP says. Try to stay calm as you make your retreat. Black bears will sometimes “bluff charge” to within a few feet of you when they feel threatened. If this happens, stand your ground and shout at the bear. Do not climb a tree because black bears are excellent tree climbers. Make sure your dog is on a leash and under control.

To avoid attracting bears to your yard, be sure to remove bird feeders March through November and other food attractants. Adding capfuls of ammonia to trash bags can also mask food odors and the DEEP suggests you don’t leave pet food out overnight, don’t add meat or sweets to a compost pile and make sure you clean your grill after use.

Experience has shown that a single wandering bear can be responsible for numerous sightings reported to the Wildlife Division, the DEEP says. Experience has also shown that, given an avenue for escape, bears will usually wander back into more secluded areas. People should not feed bears, either intentionally or unintentionally. Bears that associate food with people become problem bears that will not be tolerated by all property owners.

According to the DEEP, Connecticut has the habitat to support more bears; however, the future of Connecticut’s bear population depends on the actions and attitudes of the human population.

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