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Take steps now to avoid potential conflicts with bears

Many black bears have begun to emerge from their dens throughout Wisconsin, and the Department of Natural Resources encourages residents to take precautions to avoid potential conflicts.

Black bears normally avoid contact with people, but when food is available near homes and businesses, bears can quickly learn to associate humans with food.

“As the weather warms and we all get outside more, some of our activities can generate food sources for bears,” said DNR wildlife damage specialist Brad Koele. “Grilling outdoors, feeding birds and unsecured trash cans can lead to conflict when they become bear food sources. It is important to make sure these attractants are inaccessible to bear at all times of the year, but it’s especially important in spring when natural food sources are limited.”

If a bear finds an easily accessible bird feed or garbage container near your home, it will likely return. Visits are more likely to stop of the food source is removed. Bears will periodically check sites where food was once available, so it may take several days to weeks after a food source has been removed for a bear to completely abandon a site.

Residents can follow these steps to avoid attracting black bears:

_ Do not knowingly feed a bear.

_ Completely remove bird feeders, even during daytime hours. Bears are active during the day and may cause problems even if the feeders are out only during that time.

_ Clean areas where bird feeders were located so that accumulated deposits of spilled seed are removed.

_ Reduce garbage odors by rinsing food cans before putting them in covered recycling containers or garbage cans.

_ Keep meat scraps in the freezer until garbage day and, if possible, keep garbage cans in a closed building until the morning of pick-up.

_ Be sure to lock commercial dumpsters.

_ Keep pet food inside or inaccessible to bears even during daytime hours.

_ Keep barbecue grills and picnic tables clean.

The “Living with Bears in Wisconsin” document, found at, keywords “wildlife damage,” will help landowners learn more about co-existing with bears in Wisconsin.

“We are encouraging property owners and occupants to take actions now to avoid conflicts with bear,” Koele said. “Taking proactive steps now will decrease the likelihood that wildlife personnel will need to conduct site visits and implement control efforts. This is especially important as we continue to deal with COVID- 19 and the need for social distancing.”

If a bear is near your home, wave your arms and make noise to scare it away. Back away slowly and seek a safe location where you can wait for the bear to leave. When scaring a bear away, make sure it has a clear escape route. Never corner a bear. If you encounter a bear while in the woods, stay calm and do not approach the bear. Never approach a sow with cubs, and do not attempt to break up a fight between your pet and a bear.

The department partners with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services Program to respond to approximately 800 bear-related complaints reported in Wisconsin each year. Homeowners who are unable to resolve a conflict with a bear should contact the USDA Wildlife Services toll-free line at 1-800-433-0663 for properties in southern Wisconsin and 1-800-228-1368 for properties in northern Wisconsin.