After the long winter we have had here in the northeast, springtime is a very welcome change of season. Spring is a time of new beginnings and this year is no different… but with the new beginnings comes wildlife interactions that suburbanites may not have had last year. Headlines and nixle alert like this one here are given for good reason. Bears are just coming out of their dens and looking for food… plus, young bears that have just left the safety of their mother are looking for new territory. This increases the chances of seeing bears where they haven’t been seen before, even in a downtown area or in your suburban backyard. For suburbanites who may not have dealt with bears or even seen one in the wild before, a bear encounter can be a frightening experience. Black bear attacks are very rare but below is a list of preventative measures to avoid an encounter and steps you can take to protect yourself, your property, and your animals from a bad encounter.
1. Sign up for nixle alerts. Areas where a bear sighting is a novelty or where children may be present will send out an alert when one is sighted in the area
2. Monitor your animals while they are outside, even in a fenced in yard. Install lights in your yard if you don’t have them already
3. Do not feed or approach a bear (or any wild animal). If your garbage is ransacked or outdoor pet food is eaten, move it inside to avoid a repeat
4. Remain calm and make the bear aware of your presence by speaking in a calm, assertive voice
5. Make sure the bear has an escape route
6. Make as much noise as possible by yelling, blowing a horn, rattling metal garbage cans, etc to scare away the bear. Make yourself look as big as possible by waving your arms. If you are with someone else, stand close together with your arms raised above your head.
7. Don’t Run!!! Behavior that you may interpret as aggressive (huffs, popping sounds, standing on hind legs, moving closer) may be a bluff or a warning… or simple curiousity. Slowly back away and avoid direct eye contact.
8. Find shelter such as a house, behind a fence, etc to create a barrier the bear must break through. A bear is a big, strong animal and can get through doors but having a barrier can give you time to escape.
9. Never approach a mother with cubs. She is more likely to lead her cubs away, but a mother bear may attack to protect her young.
10. In a worst case scenario, if you are attacked, fight back. Black bears are not like their brown cousins…they will not just maul you, they are attacking to kill. Try to aim for eyes sockets with your fingers.
Bears aren’t necessarily something to be feared, get out of the house and enjoy nature… but some precautions should be taken to avoid problems. Have a great spring!