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Bears Increase Food Intake in Fall, DEEP Be Bear Aware!

DEEP Encourages Continued Bear Awareness Heading into Fall - Bears Increase Food Intake in Fall

Heading into the fall season, in which black bears increase their food intake to add fat reserves needed to help them survive winter hibernation, the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) is reminding residents of several best practices they can incorporate to help reduce the likelihood of an encounter with a bear. 

Interactions between black bears and people continue to increase this year, resulting in unprecedented numbers of complaints and requests for assistance. Some of these interactions have been serious, including bears entering homes and gravely injuring both leashed and unleashed dogs. Already in 2020 (through Sept. 10), DEEP has received more reports of bears entering homes (42) than in any previous year.

As fall begins, black bears increase their food intake to add fat reserves needed to help them survive the winter, when they typically fast and reduce their metabolism. Human-provided foods can be easy to find and access, making them more desirable. Black bears that consume human-associated food (e.g. birdseed, trash, pet food) on a regular basis become habituated (comfortable around people) and food-conditioned (associate humans with food). As the bear population continues to grow and expand its range, and bears become increasingly food conditioned, conflicts with humans will continue to increase, and food-conditioned bears pose a greater risk to public safety and often cause more property damage to houses, cars, pets, and livestock.

“Black bears should never be fed – either intentionally or unintentionally,” said Jenny Dickson, DEEP Wildlife Division Director. “Bears that are attracted to homes by easily-accessible foods lose their fear of humans. It is important to remember to keep your grill clean and garbage secured and indoors until collection day to avoid giving bears a tempting snack. Bears that are rewarded by easy meals spend more time in neighborhoods and near people, increasing risks to public safety, the likelihood of property damage, and the possibility that the bears may be hit and killed by vehicles.”

DEEP has several best practices for residents to incorporate to help reduce the likelihood of an encounter with a bear, available online on DEEP’s “Living with Black Bears” website, https://portal.ct.gov/DEEP-Living-with-Black-Bears. DEEP has also created a new video incorporating many of these best practices, available here.

Here are some of those best practices:

If you encounter a bear while in your yard or hiking, make your presence known by yelling or making other loud noises. Never attempt to get closer to a bear. If a bear does not retreat, slowly leave the area. If in your yard, go into your house, garage, or other structure. If the bear persistently approaches, go on the offensive—shout, wave your arms, and throw sticks or rocks. If your dog is hiking with you, it is imperative that you keep the dog on a SHORT leash and DO NOT let it roam free – this is for the safety of your dog, yourself, and the bear.

Everyone can be a good neighbor and take steps to reduce encounters and potential conflicts with bears. The most important step is to remove food attractants, such as bird seed and unsecured garbage:

  1. NEVER feed bears.
  2. Do not feed birds in the spring (starting in late March), summer, and early fall. Clean up spilled seed from the ground when feeding over winter.
  3. Store garbage in secure, airtight containers inside a garage or storage area. 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.
  4. Do not store leftover bird seed, suet cakes, or recyclables in a porch or screened sunroom as bears can smell these items and will rip screens to get at them.
  5. Keep barbecue grills clean. Store grills inside a garage or shed.
  6. Supervise dogs at all times when outside. Keep dogs on a short leash when walking and hiking. A roaming dog might be perceived as a threat to a bear or its cubs. (Dogs are required to be on a leash when visiting State Parks, State Forests, and Wildlife Management Areas. Check dog and leash regulations for town properties, land trusts, and other public properties before heading to those areas.)
  7. Do not leave pet food outdoors or feed pets outside.
  8. Use electric fencing to protect beehives, agricultural crops, berry bushes, chickens, and other livestock.
  9. Avoid placing meat scraps or sweet foods, such as fruit and fruit peels, in compost piles.

In the rare instance when a bear appears to be aggressive toward people, residents should immediately contact DEEP’s 24-hour dispatch line at 860-424-3333.

Bear sightings reported by the public provide valuable information to assist the DEEP in monitoring changes in the black bear population. Anyone who observes a black bear in Connecticut is encouraged to report the sighting on DEEP’s website at https://portal.ct.gov/DEEP-Living-with-Black-Bears or call the Wildlife Division at 860-424-3011. Information on the presence or absence of ear tags, including tag color and numbers, is particularly valuable. A common misconception is that a tagged bear 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 biologists. Most tagged bears have not been caught as problem bears, but rather as part of a project researching the state’s population.

 

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