Published April 20. 2013 8:00PM Updated April 20. 2013 8:23PM
The state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection on Friday reminded residents to take steps to reduce contact and conflicts with black bears as they emerge from winter hibernation looking for food.
The reminder is especially important now as the state’s bear population continues to grow.
As bears come out from their winter dens, natural food sources may be scarce and, as a result, bears can be attracted to human-provided foods found near homes, DEEP said in a news release.
“If you genuinely care about bears, you should not feed them — either intentionally or accidentally,” said Susan Whalen, DEEP Deputy Commissioner. “Most bears, when attracted close to homes by easily-accessible food sources, will become habituated and lose their fear of humans. This is when they become a problem.”
Residents are reminded to never feed bears; remove bird feeders until fall and clean up spilled seed; store garbage in secure, airtight containers inside a garage or storage area; avoid leaving pet food outdoors at night; keep barbecue grills clean and store inside a garage or shed; not place meat scraps or sweet foods in compost piles; protect beehives, livestock and berry bushes with electric fencing; and keep dogs on a leash when walking and hiking.
If you encounter a bear while hiking, make your presence known by yelling or making other loud noises. If a bear does not retreat, slowly leave the area and find an alternate hiking route. While camping, keep a clean campsite, and make sure food and garbage are secured and never have food in your tent.
In the rare instance when a bear appears to be aggressive toward people, contact the DEEP Wildlife Division’s Sessions Woods office at (860) 675-8130 or (860) 424-3333. Anyone who observes a black bear in Connecticut is encouraged to report the sighting at: www.ct.gov/deep/wildlife or to call the Wildlife Division’s Sessions Woods office. For more information about black bears, visit www.ct.gov/deep/blackbear.