Tips: How to better make your home a bear-free zone this fall, winter

Animals and Wildlife

Conn. (WTNH) — Connecticut’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) sent out a warning to residents on Monday to be aware as bears prepare for winter hibernation.

According to DEEP, bears increase their food intake in the fall to add fat reserves needed for hibernation. They eat up to 20 hours a day and up to 10 times the calories they normally consume – at least 20,000 calories a day. DEEP warns the public that bears may come close to human residences to forage. They may be attracted to your bird feeders, outdoor pet food, and/or overflowing garbage containers.

But, there are simple ways to reduce the likelihood of encountering a bear at or near your home:

  1. NEVER feed bears, intentionally or unintentionally
  2. If you choose to put out bird feeders, do so in the winter months from December through late-March when bears are in their dens. Although most bears enter dens at some point, some can remain active for portions of or the entire winter season if food is available. It is important that your clean up spilled seed from the ground when feeding over winter and remove bird feeders at the first sign of bear activity. If you live in an area with bears, it is best to avoid bird feeders altogether.
  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. Do not store leftover bird seed, suet cakes, or recyclables in a porch or screened sunroom as bears can smell these items and will rip screens to get at them. 
  5. Keep barbecue grills clean. Store grills inside a garage or shed. 
  6. Supervise dogs at all times when outside. Keep dogs on a short leash when walking and hiking. A roaming dog might be perceived as a threat to a bear or its cubs. (Dogs are required to be on a leash when visiting State Parks, State Forests, and Wildlife Management Areas. Check dog and leash regulations for town properties, land trusts, and other public properties before heading to those areas.)
  7. Do not leave pet food outdoors or feed pets outside. 
  8. Use electric fencing to protect beehives, agricultural crops, berry bushes, chickens, and other livestock. 
  9. Avoid placing meat scraps or sweet foods, such as fruit and fruit peels, in compost piles. 

Jenny Dickson, DEEP Wildlife Division director explained, “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.”

If you do encounter a bear in your yard or while you are out on a hike, “make your presence known by yelling or making other loud noises. Never attempt to get closer to a bear. If a bear does not retreat, slowly leave the area. If in your yard, go into your house, garage, or other structure. If the bear persistently approaches, go on the offensive—shout, wave your arms, and throw sticks or rocks. If your dog is hiking with you, it is imperative that you keep the dog on a SHORT leash and DO NOT let it roam free – this is for the safety of your dog, yourself, and the bear.”

In the rare instance when a bear appears to be aggressive toward people, residents should immediately contact DEEP’s 24-hour dispatch line at 860-424-3333. 

DEEP has more info on their “Living with Black Bears” website, https://portal.ct.gov/DEEP-Living-with-Black-Bears. DEEP has also created a video incorporating many of these best practices, available here

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