DEM offers tips on co-existing with black bears

DEM offers tips on co-existing with black bears

PROVIDENCE - The increased publicity about black bear sightings in Rhode Island has prompted the Department of Environmental Management to issue some tips on how to live with bears and discourage them from becoming nuisance animals.

Over the past week, the DEM has received numerous confirmed reports of the presence of a black bear in both the northern and southern areas of the state. In Northern Rhode Island, reports of bear sightings were confirmed in Lincoln, Smithfield, North Smithfield, Burrillville, Foster, Glocester and Scituate. Bear sightings have also been confirmed in Exeter, West Greenwich, Richmond and Hopkinton. As black bear populations continue to increase in neighboring states it is likely that there will be more bears in Rhode Island.

The following are some tips from the DEM on co-existing with bears.

• Take down bird feeders from April to November. Natural food sources for birds are plentiful at this time of year.

• Do not feed pets outside. If you do, take pet food dishes inside at night.

• Store garbage in sheds and garages, away from doors. Double bagging and the use of ammonia will reduce odors that attract bears.

• Garbage for pickup should be put outside the morning of collection, not the night before.

• Keep barbecue grills clean of grease.

• Do not put meat or sweet food scraps in the compost pile.

The DEM’s environmental police officers and wildlife biologists are working closely with local police to keep track of bear sightings and complaints, and are educating people in the area of sightings to co-exist with bears.

Breeding season for black bears in New England occurs during June and July. During this time adult males may travel great distances in search of breeding age females.

Black bears are generally shy and secretive, and usually fearful of humans, but if they become dependent on backyard food sources they can lose their fear and become a nuisance. Intelligent and adaptable, they learn quickly and adjust to the presence of humans. They have a keen sense of smell, and will investigate food odors. They are opportunists, and it is this feeding behavior that attracts them to residential areas. The attractions include garbage, birdseed and suet, fruit, compost piles, outdoor pet dishes, and grease on barbecue grills. Once a bear finds an accessible food source, it may routinely return to the same site or similar sites to feed.

It is important to reduce the attractions that can make a bear a nuisance. Without the food attractions, and left alone, a curious bear will usually wander back into more secluded areas. If somone sees a bear on their property, they can either leave it alone and wait for it to leave or make loud noises from a safe distance, and wave your arms, to scare it away. If someone surprises a bear at close range, they should walk away slowly while facing the bear, but avoid eye contact as it might be perceive as a threat. In Rhode Island, black bears are protected animals and hunting them is illegal.

Residents in the areas where the bear sightings have been reported are being asked to refrain from letting their dogs run free so that the dogs will not harass the bear. Bears are afraid of dogs, but if a bear is followed or confronted by a dog it may react and put itself in danger. Bears do not pose a threat to dogs.