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smokepole
04-08-2009, 06:04 PM
DEP: Residents Need To Be Bear Aware
Bears Become More Active With Arrival Of Spring, DEP Says


HARTFORD, Conn. -- With the arrival of spring, Connecticut residents need to be remember that bears become more active as they look for food, territory and mates, the Department of Environmental Protection reported Wednesday.

"As the bear population increases, conflicts with humans will be inevitable," said Ed Parker, chief of the Bureau of Natural Resources. "However, many of these conflicts are preventable."

Parker said most problems occur when bears are attracted to homes by food sources provided by humans.

"If bears find food rewards near homes, they can become habituated and lose their fear of humans," he said. "The best step in preventing problems with bears is to avoid intentionally or unintentionally feeding bears."

The two most common attractants are bird seed at feeders and household garbage, according to the DEP.

Residents who maintain backyard birdfeeders should take down their feeders in spring and store them until late fall, DEP officials said. Wild birds don't require the supplemental food during spring, summer and fall, they said.

Garbage should be stored in a garage or other secure shed, officials said. They added that unwanted visits by bears and other wildlife can be reduced by adding ammonia to garbage and placing it in airtight containers.

Other potential attractants, officials said, include pet or livestock food stored outside, grease and drippings on barbecue grills, sweet or fatty food scraps placed on compost piles, and fruit on or fallen from trees.

Bears will attack and kill livestock, officials said, and can destroy unprotected beehives.

The DEP said one of the best precautions against bears is well-maintained electric fencing. Other recommendations for livestock growers include moving animals into sheds at night, keeping feed contained, keeping animals as distant from forested areas as possible and using guard dogs.

"To assure the welfare of bears and the people who live near them, public understanding and tolerance of bears is critical," said Parker. "Learning to live with bears requires all of us to take the proper precautions for preventing problems."

In addition, Parker suggested that if a hiker encounters a bear, the hiker should make his or her presence known by yelling or making loud noises. He said bears will typically move on from an area once they detect humans.

In an instance when a bear appears to be overly bold or aggressive toward people, residents should contact the DEP Wildlife Division's Sessions Woods office Mondays through Fridays from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at 860-675-8130, or the 24-hour dispatch line at 860-424-3333 during weekends and non-business hours. Anyone who observes a black bear in Connecticut is encouraged to report the sighting on the DEP Web site or call the Wildlife Division's Sessions Woods office.