Environmental officials want you to be 'bear aware' - WFSB 3 Connecticut

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Environmental officials want you to be 'bear aware'

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It's that time of year again!

State environmental officials are looking to remind people to be "bear aware" to avoid encounters and potential conflicts with the animals.

According to the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, there are steps folks can take as Connecticut's bear population continues to grow.

"If you genuinely care about bears, you should never feed them – either intentionally or unintentionally,” said Susan Whalen, DEEP Deputy Commissioner.

“Bears become habituated, losing their fear of humans, when attracted to homes by easily-accessible food sources. Such bears spend more time in neighborhoods and near people, increasing public safety fears, and the likelihood that the bears may be hit and killed by cars or meet with some other misfortune.”

Last year, DEEP said there were about 6,500 reported bear sightings in 131 of the state's 169 towns.

"If you look back 30 years, bears were pretty scarce in the state. Just started moving in. Since then, the population has grown year after year," said wildlife biologist, Paul Rego. 

"Towns like Newtown, Redding, Southbury, Roxbury, Woodbury, all those towns are just now experiencing bears for the first time," added Rego. 

Newtown resident, Carol Ackerman told Channel 3 that she was startled when recently awakening black bears made an appearance in her yard.

"Sometimes they'll just walk across the lawns, taking their time," said Ackerman. "That's the first time we've seen bears where we live and we've been there for 11 years."

She told Channel 3 that she watched them in disbelief. 

"[We saw the bear] chomping on our bird feeder, and I was like 'Okay, time to put the bird feeder away for the year.'"

When Ackerman's husband started shouting at the bear to shoo it away, she said it wasn't intimidated. 

"The bear doesn't run away, he comes closer to check out what's going on at the slider, so he walks right up and starts pawing at the sliding glass door."

DEEP recommended these steps:

  1. Never feed bears.
  2. Take down, clean and put away bird feeders by late March, or even earlier during mild weather. Store the feeders until late fall. Clean up spilled seed from the ground.
  3. Store garbage in secure, airtight containers inside a garage or storage area. Adding ammonia to cans and bags will reduce odors that attract bears. Periodically clean garbage cans with ammonia to reduce residual odor. Garbage for pickup should be put outside the morning of collection and not the night before.
  4. Protect beehives, livestock (including chickens), and berry bushes from bears with electric fencing.
  5. Supervise dogs at all times when outside. Keep dogs on a leash when walking and hiking. A roaming dog might be perceived as a threat to a bear or its cubs.
  6. Do not leave pet food outdoors.
  7. Keep barbecue grills clean. Store grills inside a garage or shed.
  8. Avoid placing meat scraps or sweet foods in compost piles.

If a bear is encountered while hiking, DEEP suggests making the hiker's presence known by yelling and making loud noises.

It said never get close to take a photo.

DEEP also said if a bear persists, never run. Continue the loud noises and throw sticks or rocks.

If the bear becomes aggressive, DEEP said it should be contacted immediately at 860-424-3333.

More information about Connecticut's black bears can be found on DEEP's website here.

For photos of bears and other wildlife in Connecticut, head here.

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