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New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos today encouraged New Yorkers to reduce the potential for conflicts with bears in communities across the state.

“We have recently begun to see a rise in reported sightings of black bears in suburban and urban areas,” Commissioner Seggos said. “While seeing a bear is an exciting experience for many New Yorkers, bears that are inadvertently fed by humans exhibit unnatural behaviors and can become a nuisance. DEC encourages homeowners, property managers, and outdoor enthusiasts to follow guidance to reduce bears’ access to attractants like garbage, birdseed, and pet food to discourage nuisance bears.”

In June, black bear movement increases as the breeding season begins and yearling (one-year-old) bears disperse to find their own space. Inevitably some of these bears, particularly yearlings, wander through places these animals would not normally inhabit, like suburban or urban neighborhoods. Bears have an acute sense of smell and may attempt to consume anything they perceive as edible, including improperly stored garbage, birdseed, livestock, pet food, and barbecue grill grease traps. Once a bear has discovered a food source, it may return or seek similar foods at neighboring properties, learning bad behavior that can damage human property and may lead to the death of the bear.

Bears that frequent developed areas are more likely to be hit by vehicles, illegally killed by people who perceive them as a threat, or euthanized for dangerous behavior. New Yorkers can live responsibly with bears by taking down bird feeders, storing garbage containers and pet/livestock feed securely indoors, cleaning grill grease traps, and asking neighbors to do the same. A bear passing through a developed area in search of suitable natural habitat may investigate human food sources, but if it cannot obtain anything to eat, it will continue on its way.

If a bear is seen in an unexpected location, residents should simply be aware of the bear’s presence and observe the bear without attempting to interact with it. If left alone and given the opportunity, nearly all bears that wander into urban and suburban areas will leave as quickly and quietly as they appear, without serious conflict or need for physical removal.

Follow the tips below to live responsibly with New York black bears:

Do not feed bears intentionally. Feeding bears intentionally is illegal and a ticketable offense. Bears that obtain food from humans will continue to seek food from humans and become nuisance bears, which can pose a threat to humans.

Around dwellings, the public is encouraged to:

  • Remove all bird feeders;
  • Keep garbage, grills, pet food, and birdseed inside a solid, secure structure such as a house, shed, or garage;
  • If grills cannot be secured, clean grills, move them away from houses, and remove grease traps after each use;
  • Put garbage on the curb the morning of collection, not the night before, and use bear-resistant trash containers; and
  • Close garage doors and ground-floor windows/doors at night.

Campgrounds visitors should follow the following guidance to reduce potential bear conflicts:

  • Keep campsites as clean as possible;
  • Clean up after all meals immediately. Keep grills, pots, pans, cooking utensils, and washbasins clean when not in use;
  • Leave coolers and food inside car trunks or truck cabs;
  • Store food and coolers in food lockers when available;
  • NEVER keep food, coolers, or scented items in tents when camping. Store toiletries securely with coolers and food;
  • Do not put grease, garbage, plastic diapers, cans, bottles, or other refuse in the fireplace; and
  • Dispose of garbage in the campground’s dumpsters every evening.

Visitors to the backcountry are encouraged to:

  • Pack a minimal amount of food. Use lightweight and dehydrated foods. Plan all meals to avoid leftovers;
  • Use bear-resistant food canisters, which are required in the Eastern High Peaks Wilderness of the Adirondack Park;
  • Cook and eat before dark and cook away from campsites;
  • Avoid spills and drippings while cooking and do not pour grease into fire pits; and
  • Never leave food unattended.

If you encounter a bear:

  • Don’t panic. Most bears are as afraid of people as people are of bears;
  • Never approach, surround, or corner a bear;
  • Back away slowly-do not run;
  • Do not throw backpacks or food at bears. If bears are rewarded with food, they will continue to seek food from people; and
  • If feeling threatened by a bear, raise your arms over your head to look bigger and yell loudly at the bear while slowly backing away.

When to report a nuisance bear:

  • When a nuisance bear presents an immediate danger to public safety, call 911;
  • If a bear is damaging property or is reluctant to leave the area, but the situation is not an emergency, call the regional wildlife office during business hours, or call the DEC Law Enforcement Dispatch Center at 1-844-DEC-ECOs (1-844-332-3267); and
  • If bear cubs are known to be orphaned in the spring or summer (before July), call DEC. After that time, cubs generally survive on their own.

For more information, visit DEC webpages on black bears and reducing bear-human conflicts.