DEEP Reminds Residents To Be Bear Aware
Bear Activity Increases in Early Spring
(HARTFORD)—Early spring is the time of year in which black bear activity increases as bears come out of their winter period of rest. As such, the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) reminds residents to take steps to reduce encounters and potential conflicts with bears.
These steps are increasingly important as Connecticut’s bear population continues to grow and expand in range. In 2021, approximately 8,600 bear sightings from 156 of Connecticut’s 169 towns were reported to the DEEP Wildlife Division. All residents should take time to make themselves “Bear Aware,” to learn about best practices to both reduce the likelihood of an encounter with a bear, and to know what to do in the event of an encounter.
Black bears that consume human-associated food (e.g., birdseed, trash, pet food) on a regular basis become habituated (comfortable near people) and food-conditioned (associate humans, houses, and neighborhoods with food). As the bear population continues to grow and expand its range in Connecticut, and bears become increasingly food conditioned, conflicts with humans will continue to increase. 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 take down bird feeders by mid- to late March and keep garbage secured and indoors until collection day. 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. It is up to all of us to help prevent bears from learning bad behavior.”
DEEP has several best practices for residents to follow to reduce the likelihood of an encounter with a bear, available on DEEP’s “Living with Black Bears” webpage, https://portal.ct.gov/DEEP-Living-with-Black-Bears. DEEP has also created a video incorporating many of these best practices, available here.
Make Your Place a No-Bear-Food-Zone
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:
- NEVER feed bears.
- Take down, clean, and put away birdfeeders by late March, or even earlier during mild weather.Store the feeders until late fall and clean up spilled seed from the ground. Store any unused bird seed and suet in a location not accessible to bears, such as a closed garage. Do not store bird seed in screened porches or sheds where bears will be able to rip screens or break through windows to access the seed.
- Store garbage in secure, airtight containers inside a garage or other enclosed storage area. Adding ammonia to trash 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.
- Do not store recyclables in a porch or screened sunroom as bears can smell these items and will rip screens to get at them.
- Keep barbecue grills clean. Store grills inside a garage or shed.
- 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.)
- Do not leave pet food outdoors or feed pets outside.
- Use electric fencing to protect chickens, other livestock, beehives, agricultural crops, and berry bushes.
- Avoid placing meat scraps or sweet foods, such as fruit and fruit peels, in compost piles.
When/How You Should Report a Bear Sighting or Encounter:
- You see a bear at a safe distance in your yard or on the trail:Bear sightings reported by the public provide valuable information to assist 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/Wildlife/Report-a-Wildlife-Sighting or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. 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. 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 bear population.
- A bear has damaged your property, or you have specific questions about bears:Contact the DEEP Wildlife Division at 860-424-3011.
- In the rare instance when a bear appears to be aggressive toward people, or other immediate public safety concerns involving a bear: Contact DEEP’s Environmental Conservation Police viaDEEP’s 24-hour emergency dispatch line at 860-424-3333.
Photo credit: Kyle Testerman/ CT DEEP
Connecticut’s bear population continues to grow and expand in range. All residents should take time to make themselves “Bear Aware,” to learn about best practices to both reduce the likelihood of an encounter with a bear, and to know what to do in the event of an encounter.
Staff are available for interviews!