Bear sightings and encounters have been occurring more frequently than usual this summer leading to a spike in bear-related calls to DEC and local law enforcement officials, as many as a dozen per week. Higher reports of encounters with bears have been coming from the Old Forge-Inlet corridor, and in the High Peaks (where bear canisters are required).
Nearly a dozen nuisance bears have been put down so far this year in the Adirondacks. Wildlife biologists say the increased encounters are the result of reduced natural food sources this year.
New York State’s Department of Environmental Conservation (REC) Region 5, which covers most of the Adirondacks, has put down five nuisance bears. Another bear was killed by an individual who had been issued a nuisance bear permit; two additional nuisance bear permits have been issued, that have not yet been acted upon.
“Nuisance bear permits are only issued to people with livestock or crops that are experiencing considerable and frequent problems with a bear harassing their livestock or damaging their crops,” DEC Region 5 spokesperson David Winchell told the Almanack, “We do not issue nuisance bear permits to people that have problems at their residence.”
DEC Region 6 spokesperson Stephen Litwhiler said his offices are receiving a high number of nuisance bear calls, mostly in that Old Forge – Inlet Corridor. “At the peak a month ago we were getting 10 to 15 calls a week, now about 8 to 10 a week by wildlife and law enforcement,” Litwhiler said, adding that they have had to put down five bears so far this year. “These were the worst actors and it was as a last resort,” he said, “Other bears have been ‘educated’ about staying away from dwellings and campgrounds with noise makers and rubber buckshot. Trapping and relocating was tried over the past couple weeks without catching any bears. Its just not that easy.”
Adirondack black bears will take advantage of readily available food sources, including bird feeders and garbage. To prevent encounters with bears, you should never intentionally feed them, and you should discourage them from seeking food from sources near your home or camp.
“Black bears are generally timid and avoid people but if allowed access to human foods chronic problems can develop,” Region 6 Big Game Biologist Steven Heerkens said. “The major issues we are seeing this summer with nuisance activity has been exacerbated by the intentional feeding by campers and visitors who think it is fun to feed bears for pictures or to be close to bears.”
It is against DEC regulations to directly or indirectly feed bears and people who feed bears, intentionally or otherwise, are doing bears a great disservice. “Residents and tourists alike are asked to respect bears as wild animals so everyone can
- When camping, keep food out of sight and secured in a vehicle if one is available. Hang food and garbage from a tree, out of reach (8 feet or higher). Also, keep picnic tables, utensils, fireplaces and the area around them clean. Do not leave coolers unattended. The use of bear canisters is required by campers in the Eastern High Peaks from April 1 to November 30 and recommended throughout the Adirondacks. Pack all food, toiletries and garbage in canisters. DEC and the manufacturer are discouraging the use of BearVault Canisters in the eastern High Peaks as bears are regularly defeating this type of canister and obtaining the food stored inside.
- Do not feed birds through the summer. Birds don’t really need supplemental food this time of year when their natural food is most abundant.
- Dispose of garbage as frequently as possible. Store it in clean, secure containers (top-latched, tied or chained). Double bag meat scraps in a zip lock bag. Use ammonia soaked rags inside the garbage bag before closing. Tie off garbage bag before placing in container. Do not leave dirty diapers or diaper pails outside.
- If you live in an area frequented by bears, periodically disinfect or scrub garbage cans with Lysol, ammonia or bleach & water, store your garbage cans in a secure place such as a garage, cellar or a bear-resistant container, instead of a porch if possible.
- If your garbage is picked up at the curb, put the garbage out just before the scheduled pickup or place it in a roadside bear-resistant container. Don’t put garbage out the night before pick-up at the curb.
- Feed pets and store foods indoors. If you must feed outdoors, give only enough food for one feeding, take in all uneaten food and dishes before dark.
- Remember that the smell of cooked foods may attract wandering bears closer to your house. Clean up after your picnic or barbecue. Keep barbeque grills as clean as possible and after they cool down store them inside. Do not overlook cleaning the grease trap. Don’t add meat scraps, bones or melon rinds to your compost pile.