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What causes Human-Bear Conflicts?
The simple answer is food! Bears are more likely to seek out human food sources in the spring, when natural food is scarce, and in the summer, particularly during periods of drought.
The leading cause of bear complaints in New York is bears getting into residential garbage and birdfeeders. Remove bird feeders from April 1 - November 30. New York's black bears begin emerging from their winter dens in mid to late March. Bird feed such as suet and seeds are a very strong attraction for bears, even if they can't reach it. The Feeding of Black Bears is Prohibited in New York, even the incidental, indirect feeding of black bears is unlawful.
If a bear continues to forage for food near humans, it will be trapped and tagged in the ear. If trapped a second time, tagged in the other ear. Third time destroyed!
Reducing Bear Attractants
Good housekeeping is a requirement wherever black bears are found. Simple sanitation measures can be the key to avoid attracting bears. Take responsibility for your safety and encourage your neighbors to do the same!
Keeping Humans and Bears Safe
In New York State, people and black bears often find themselves living nearby one another. Bears can obtain all of the nourishment they need from the forest but they are intelligent and opportunistic animals that will find and consume whatever food they can access most easily. Since bears must often cross roads and pass through developed areas to find the varied habitat types that produce their seasonal food sources, they often find human foods readily accessible along the way, if homeowners do not take necessary precautions. Not every bear that passes through a developed area is a 'problem bear', but available human food sources can quickly turn them into one.
Frequently, humans unknowingly create potential food sources for bears that may attract them into close proximity to residential areas and subsequently result in human-bear conflicts. These conflicts are often associated with activities not intended to attract bears, such as feeding birds, improperly storing garbage, and leaving messy grills and pet food outdoors. Most conflict scenarios in New York can be resolved or minimized by removing or adequately securing whatever served to attract the bear.
Bears are opportunistic feeders and will remember where they find easy food, and return to that location frequently. Intentional feeding of bears or repeated access to human foods without negative consequence can lead bears to become habituated (lose their fear of humans) and to become food-conditioned (actively seek out human foods). Habituated and food-conditioned bears may become bolder in their efforts the longer they are successfully able to access human foods, and will eventually become involved in human-bear conflicts. These food conditioned bears are significantly more likely to be hit by cars or shot illegally by people who mistakenly perceive a threat to their own safety.
Report a Bear Problem. Contact your regional DEC wildlife office to report black bear related damage.
Feeding of Black Bears is Prohibited in New York
Never feed bears intentionally; it is illegal and creates human-bear conflicts.
DEC has adopted a regulation prohibiting the deliberate and intentional feeding of black bears. The incidental, indirect feeding of black bears also is unlawful after a written warning has been issued by the department.