Pennsylvania Game Commission Offers Advice on How to Avoid Bear Conflicts September 13, 2005 9:57 PM
Drug Deterrence Makes for Good Bear Deterrence
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HARRISBURG, Pa., Sept. 13 /PRNewswire/ -- With fall just two weeks away,
many Pennsylvanians will be spending increasing amounts of time outdoors.
This also is when black bears become more active, setting the stage for an
increase in bear sightings and possibly encounters.
Mark Ternent, Pennsylvania Game Commission black bear biologist, noted
that bears will soon start consuming massive quantities of food to prepare for
the upcoming denning season, which begins in mid- to late-November. This is
when some bears may inadvertently end up in more populated areas as they
search for food.
Ternent offered suggestions on how to reduce the likelihood that your
property will attract bruins and how to best react when a bear is encountered.
"Bear activity increases during the fall because they're foraging to
consume as many calories as possible from any source they can find in
preparation for denning," Ternent said. "As a result, sightings of bears can
"While Pennsylvania bears are mostly timid animals that would sooner run
than confront people, residents should know a few things about how to react if
they encounter a bear, or better yet, how to avoid an encounter altogether by
reducing the likelihood of attracting bears to your camp or residence."
Ternent stressed there are no known records of a Pennsylvania black bear
killing a human, and there have been fewer than 20 reported injuries resulting
from black bear encounters during the past 25 years in the state. However,
deaths caused by black bears have been reported in other eastern states, such
as New York (2002) and Tennessee (2000). Pennsylvania's bear population
currently is estimated at 14,000 animals, and reports of bears becoming bold
because people failed to keep food away from them are not uncommon.
"Pennsylvanians need to understand that when bears become habituated to
their homes or communities, it can lead to conflicts and possibly serious
injury," Ternent said. "Feeding wildlife, whether the activity is intended
for birds or deer, can draw bears into an area. Once bears become habituated
to an area where they find food, they will continue to return, which is when
the bear can become a real problem for homeowners and neighbors.
"Even more disturbing are the reports we receive about people
intentionally feeding bears to make them more visible for viewing or
"Ideally, we want bears to pass by residential areas without finding a
food reward that would cause them to return and become a problem," Ternent
said. "Capturing and moving bears that have become habituated to humans is
costly and sometimes ineffective because they often return or continue the
same unwanted behavior where released. That is why wildlife agencies tell
people that a 'fed bear is a dead bear.'"
Ternent listed five suggestions that could prevent attracting bears to a
Play it smart. Do not feed wildlife. Food placed outside for wildlife,
such as corn for squirrels, may attract bears. Reconsider putting squash,
pumpkins, corn stalks or other Halloween or holiday decorations outside that
also may attract bears. Even bird feeders can become "bear magnets." Tips
for how to safely feed birds for those in prime bear areas include: restrict
feeding season to when bears den, which is primarily from late November
through late March; avoid foods that are particularly attractive for bears,
such as sunflower seeds, hummingbird nectar mixes or suet; bring feeders
inside at night; or suspend feeders from high crosswires.
Keep it clean. Don't put out garbage until pick-up day; don't throw table
scraps out back for animals to eat; don't add fruit or vegetable wastes to
your compost pile; and clean your barbecue grill regularly. If you feed pets
outdoors, consider placing food dishes inside overnight. Encourage your
neighbors to do the same.
Keep your distance. If a bear shows up in your backyard, stay calm. From
a safe distance, shout at it like you would to chase an unwanted dog. If the
bear won't leave, slowly retreat and call the nearest Game Commission regional
office or local police department for assistance.
Eliminate temptation. Bears that visit your area are often drawn there.
Neighbors need to work together to reduce an area's appeal to bears. Ask area
businesses to keep dumpsters closed and bear-proofed (chained or locked shut).
Check please! If your dog is barking, or cat is clawing at the door to
get in, try to determine what has alarmed your pet. But do it cautiously,
using outside lights to full advantage and from a safe position, such as a
porch or an upstairs window. All unrecognizable outside noises and
disturbances should be checked, but don't do it on foot with a flashlight.
Black bears blend in too well with nighttime surroundings providing the chance
for a close encounter. If bears have been sighted near your home, it is a
good practice to turn on a light and check the backyard before taking pets out