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DEEP: Be aware of bears this spring

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HARTFORD — The Department of Energy and Environmental Protection warned residents that with the coming of spring, bears will be on the prowl and to take steps to avoid contact with them.

The DEEP said Connecticut’s bear population continues to grow and expand and bear activity begins to increase in early spring. Last year, approximately 4,500 bear sightings from all but 28 of 169 towns were reported to DEEP.

“If you genuinely care about bears, you should never feed them – either intentionally or unintentionally,” said Susan Whalen, DEEP Deputy Commissioner. “Bears can become habituated and lose their fear of humans when they are attracted close to homes by easily-accessible food sources. This results in more contact between people and bears – which creates public safety issues for people and the greater likelihood of bears engaging in behavior that can lead to their euthanization.”

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DEEP advised residents:

  • NEVER feed bears.
  • Take down, clean, and put away birdfeeders by late March. Store the feeders until late fall. Clean up spilled seed from the ground.
  • Store garbage in secure, airtight containers inside a garage or storage area. Double bagging and 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.
  • Protect beehives, livestock, and berry bushes from bears with electric fencing.
  • 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.
  • Do not leave pet food outdoors.
  • Keep barbecue grills clean. Store grills inside a garage or shed.
  • Avoid placing meat scraps or sweet foods in compost piles.

Should you come across a bear while hiking, start by yelling or making other loud noises. Don’t try to get closer to a bear to take a photo or video. If a bear does not retreat, slowly leave the area and find an alternate hiking route. If the bear persists, be offensive towards the bear – make loud noises, wave your arms, and throw sticks or rocks. While camping, keep a clean campsite, and make sure food and garbage are secured (for example, keep food in a cooler stored in the trunk of a car and never have food in your tent).

Rarely, a bear  may appear to be aggressive toward people. Should that happen,  residents should immediately contact the DEEP Wildlife Division at 860-424-3011 (Mon.-Fri. from 8:30 AM-4:30 PM) or the DEEP’s 24-hour dispatch line (860-424-3333) during weekends and non-business hours.

Anyone who observes a black bear in Connecticut is encouraged to report the sighting on the DEEP’s website  or to call the Wildlife Division.

DEEP also said that a common misconception is that a tagged bear is a problem bear, and a bear with two ear tags was caught on two different occasions because it was causing problems. That is not the case. The tags are part of the DEEP’s research into the state’s bear population. The first time a bear is handled by the department, the bear receives a tag in each ear.

For more information about black bears, visit the DEEP’s website .