Black bear calls increase this time of year, as bears exploring for new territory enter neighborhoods in search of food, water and shelter. TWRA is asking the public to become bear wise.
Black bears have a natural fear of humans and will move away from an area quickly unless there is food available. Humans sometimes provide for bears through attractants such as bird feeders, trash, grills, and pet food bowls with leftover food.
Following a few guidelines can decrease negative interactions and help bears stay wild.
Bears accustomed to food provided by humans pose a greater threat. TWRA biologists and wildlife officers remind Tennesseans of the adage, “A fed bear is a dead bear.” Bears habituated to human foods present a threat. Removing attractants will allow bears to move on.
Dealing with a nuisance bear is a difficult process with many variables. Trapping a bear is challenging, dangerous, and often impossible in residential areas where domestic animals are common. TWRA officials try to address the reasons a bear is in an area. Trapping and relocation is a last resort.
Biologists and wildlife officers take numerous variables into account including the number of times a bear has caused an issue, the level of aggressiveness, the location, and the nuisance concern itself. The issue is most often human related. “Relocating a conditioned, dangerous bear to another area just moves the problem and this isn’t an option,” said Region 3 Big Game Biologist, Ben Layton. “Bears will travel impressive distances to return to an area where they easily found food. We simply need to change human behavior and not provide easy access to food.
“TWRA’s goal is to help people understand their behavior often causes nuisance issues. If we change these behaviors, everyone is safe.” Following a few recommendations can decrease negative interactions and help bears stay wild.
- Never Feed or Approach Bears. Intentionally feeding bears or allowing them to find anything that smells or tastes like food teaches bears to approach homes and people looking for more. Bears will defend themselves if a person gets too close, so don’t risk your safety and theirs!
- Secure Food, Garbage and Recycling. Food and food odors attract bears, so don’t reward them with easily available food, liquids, or garbage.
- Remove Bird Feeders When Bears are Active. Birdseed and grains have lots of calories, so they’re very attractive to bears. Removing feeders is the best way to avoid creating conflicts with bears.
- Never Leave Pet Food Outdoors. Feed pets indoors when possible. If you must feed pets outside, feed in single portions and remove food and bowls after feeding. Store pet food where bears can’t see or smell it.
- Clean & Store Grills. Clean grills after each use and make sure that all grease, fat and food particles are removed. Store clean grills and smokers in a secure area that keeps bears out.
- Alert Neighbors to Bear Activity. See bears in the area or evidence of bear activity? Tell your neighbors and share information on how to avoid bear conflicts. Bears have adapted to living near people; now it’s up to us to adapt to living near bears. Please visit bearwise.org for more information.