Reports of bears entering homes in Connecticut have more than doubled since last year, and experts are urging the public to remember important tips to coexist with bears as encounters continue across the state.
The state Department of Energy and Environment Protection’s Wildlife Division said as these encounters continue across the state, there are simple steps to prevent bears from learning bad behavior, specifically in terms of “food rewards.”
DEEP has received more reports of bears entering homes than in any previous year — with 42 home entries reported this year through Sept. 10. Bears were reported to have entered 17 homes across Connecticut in all of 2019.
These tips are important now more than ever as fall approaches and black bears increase their food intake to add fat reserves to make it through winter hibernation, DEEP warns.
Officials said bears that eat human-associated foods, including birdseed, trash and pet food, on a regular basis become comfortable around people and associate humans with food, creating a dangerous situation for the animal and the humans.
Jenny Dickson, director of the Wildlife Division, said bears should never be fed, intentionally or unintentionally.
“Bears that are attracted to homes by easily-accessible foods lose their fear of humans,” she said. “It is important to remember to keep your grill clean and garbage secured and indoors until collection day to avoid giving bears a tempting snack. Bears that are rewarded by easy meals spend more time in neighborhoods and near people, increasing risks to public safety, the likelihood of property damage and the possibility that the bears may be hit and killed by vehicles.”
While there are things that serve as bear attractants, bird feeders and garbage are the most common.
Bird feeders should be taken down from April 1 through at least Nov. 30 to ensure they don’t attract bears, according to the Wildlife Division. The feeders should also stay down during a mild winter. Even empty bird feeders can draw the attention of a bear.
The Wildlife Division recommends residents store garbage bins in in a closed garage or shed. Trash haulers also offer bear resistant bins for trash, making it significantly more difficult for a bear to get access to the garbage inside.
The division also urged residents to freeze food scraps until trash day and add ammonia to the trash bags to lessen the smell to bears.
Feed for livestock or pets should not be stored outside, in a garage or on a porch. Food should never be left in a vehicle; bears are strong enough to break a car window.
Be cautious about leaving doors open with only screens, the Wildlife Division suggested, adding that kitchen aromas can attract bears who can easily get through a thin screen.
More tips about dealing with bears can be found on the DEEP website.