TWRA receives more calls regarding black bears in the spring than any other time of year. Young bears just leaving their mothers are on their own for the first time and looking for their own territory. Because young bears are wandering and do not know their surroundings, they sometimes roam into suburban areas. Additionally people are spending more time outdoors this time of year. Activities such as gardening, hiking, camping and grilling increase the potential for bear sightings.
People are typically unsure of how to live in an area where bears are present. Humans unknowingly attract and provide for wild animals around their homes. Attractants include bird feeders, trash, bird baths and pet food bowls with leftover food to name a few. These things unintentionally lure bears and other unwanted wildlife. Following a few guidelines can decrease negative interactions and help bears stay wild.
Bears accustomed to foods provided by humans are easily conditioned and pose a greater threat. TWRA biologists and wildlife officers remind Tennesseans of the adage, a fed bear is a dead bear. The smell of grease on a grill, ripe vegetables in a garden, trash and bird feeders not only attract bears, they provide effortless meals for bears. Once a bear gets this easy meal, it doesn’t forget.
Dealing with a nuisance bear isn’t as simple as most think. “There is a lot taken into consideration before a bear is moved,” said Mike Beaty, Putnam County wildlife officer. Officials take several things into consideration including females with cubs, the number of times a bear has caused an issue, the level of aggressiveness, the location and the nuisance concern itself. The issue is typically human related. Trash, food attractants and an unwillingness to change their practices aggravate the situation. Beaty continued, “Relocating a conditioned, dangerous bear to another area just moves the dangerous bear and this isn’t an option.” Bears will travel impressive distances to return to an area where they easily found food.
TWRA Region 3 biologist Ben Layton said, “Euthanization isn’t our goal and it’s disconcerting when we reach this level. Our goal is helping people understand that human behavior most often causes nuisance bear issues. People think they’re protecting something or helping it when they purposefully put out table scraps or leave feeders in their yards. However, they’re worsening a dangerous situation and in the end, it causes harm to wildlife.”
Following a few guidelines can decrease negative interactions and help bears stay wild. Bears accustomed to food provided by humans are easily conditioned and are far more likely to lose their lives.
TIPS FOR LIVING WITH BEARS
· If you see a bear in your yard, look large and make a lot of noise, back slowly away.
· Never approach or follow a bear to take photos.
· Do not purposefully feed bears.
· Remove all attractants from your yard including bird feeders, uneaten pet food and ripe fruits or garden vegetables.
· Store grills in a garage or outbuilding.
· Store trash and recycling in bear proof containers.
· Visit bearwise.org, a national site dedicated to reducing human-bear conflicts.
· Ask your neighbors to follow these guidelines.