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Take steps now to avoid potential conflicts with black bears

As the weather warms and people across the state begin spending more time outside, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) encourages the public to be bear aware and take steps to prevent potential conflicts with black bears this spring.

Every spring, black bears emerge from their dens in search of food and potentially new territory. These explorations sometimes cause unexpected interactions between black bears and the public. Although black bears are much more common in the northern half of the state, southern Wisconsin has seen more black bear activity in recent years.

Bears are normally solitary forest animals, but their powerful sense of smell can lead them into urban areas in search of food, especially in the spring and fall.

To avoid potential conflicts, it’s important to recognize what attracts black bears and take steps to reduce these attractants whenever possible. Black bears are known for returning to locations where they’ve found good food sources, so prevention is the best tactic.

Follow these steps at home to avoid attracting black bears:

 Completely remove bird feeders, even during daytime hours. Bird feeders provide a high-density food source for black bears, so bears might frequent a bird feeder for several weeks to see if it is refilled. Areas around bird feeders also have accumulations of seeds that should be cleaned up when removing a feeder. Black bears are also active during throughout the day, so removing bird feeders only at night is not sufficient.

 Reduce smells from trash and recycling containers. Black bears have keen noses and are attracted to all types of food waste. Rinsing food cans and bottles before throwing them away, as well as storing meat scraps in the fridge or freezer until garbage day, can reduce the intensity of odors emanating from your garbage and recycling containers. Storing containers in a closed building can also reduce access to food waste. Commercial dumpsters should also be locked whenever possible.

 Limit the amount of time pets and pet food are left outside unattended. Black bears can be skittish, but they are highly food-motivated. They may also defend themselves or attack pets when provoked. Prevent potential conflicts by limiting how long pets are left alone outside or keep them on a leash when recreating. Pet food should not be left outside, as it may attract bears.

 Be conscious of attractants in public spaces like grills and picnic tables. Barbeque grills and picnic tables often have leftover food scraps or residues on them that can attract black bears. Clean surfaces after use in public spaces to reduce negative human-bear interactions.

 Avoid feeding or interacting with black bears. Never feed a bear, whether intentionally or not. The risk of unexpected interactions increases when bears begin to associate people with food. If bears find a consistent food source around people or people actively feed a bear, the bear will make a habit of visiting the area or approaching people.

If a bear is near your home or cabin, from a safe location, try to scare the bear away by making loud noises (like clanging pots and pans together) or throwing objects in the bear’s direction. Black bears tend to avoid interactions with people if escape is possible, so make sure it has a clear escape route. Never corner a bear. Do not turn your back to a bear or run away.

If you encounter a bear while in the woods, stay calm and do not run. Wave your arms and make loud noises to scare it away. Back away slowly and seek a safe location from where you can wait for the bear to leave. Never approach a bear. For your safety, do not attempt to break up a fight between a pet and a bear.

If unable to resolve a recurring issue with a nuisance bear, contact the USDA Wildlife Services toll-free line at 1-800-433-0663 for properties in southern Wisconsin or at 1-800-228-1368 for properties in northern Wisconsin.

For more information about avoiding unexpected interactions with black bears, visit the DNR’s Black Bear Management webpage ( WildlifeHabitat/bearmanagement) or download the printable Living with Black Bears pamphlet (https://p.widencdn. net/io8myi/bearpractice).