Many bears throughout Wisconsin have begun to emerge from their dens, and homeowners are encouraged to take precautions to avoid potential conflicts with hungry bears.
Black bears normally avoid contact with people, but when food sources are available bears can quickly learn to associate humans with food.
“Many of these conflicts occur as a result of some type of attractant, especially bird feeders, garbage cans, grills, uncontained compost or pet food left outside and accessible” said Brad Koele, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources wildlife damage specialist.
According to Koele, it is especially important to remove these attractants during the spring, when bears are emerging from dens and looking to restore depleted energy reserves when natural foods are limited.
It is illegal to intentionally feed bears in Wisconsin, but it is also important for homeowners to make sure they do not unintentionally feed bears via an accessible food source near their home.
If a bear finds food such as bird feed or garbage near your home it will likely return, and visits may stop when food is no longer available. Bears will periodically check sites where food was once available, so it may take several days to weeks before a bear will quit visiting a site once the food source has been removed.
Homeowners can follow these steps to avoid attracting bears:
•Don’t knowingly feed a bear;
•Completely remove bird feeders, even during daytime hours – bears are active during the day and may cause problems even if the feeders are out only during that time;
•Clean areas where bird feeders were located so that accumulated deposits of spilled seed are removed;
•Reduce garbage odors by rinsing food cans before putting them in covered recycling containers or garbage cans;
•Keep meat scraps in the freezer until garbage day, and if possible, keep garbage cans in a closed building until the morning of pick-up;
•Be sure to lock commercial dumpsters;
•Keep pet food inside or inaccessible to bears even during daytime hours; and
•Keep barbeque grills and picnic tables clean.
“If a bear is near your home, wave your arms and make noise to scare it away – back away slowly and seek a safe location where you can wait for the bear to leave; when scaring a bear away, make sure it has a clear escape route – never corner a bear,” said Koele. “If you encounter a bear while in the woods, stay calm and do not approach the bear. Never approach a sow with cubs, and do not attempt to break-up a fight between your pet and a bear.”
The department partners with U.S. Department of Agriculture – Wildlife Services to respond to approximately 800 bear-related complaints reported in Wisconsin each year. Homeowners who are unable to resolve a conflict with a bear should contact the USDA Wildlife Services toll-free line at 1-800-433-0663 for properties in Southern Wisconsin, and 1-800-228-1368 for properties Northern Wisconsin.
For more information regarding bears and safety, visit dnr.wi.gov and search keywords “bear.”