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DNR suggests steps to take to avoid attracting black bears

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Bear in Madison Tree

MADISON (WKOW) — With black bear sightings possible throughout Wisconsin, the Department of Natural Resources wants people to know how to avoid attracting bears in the first place. 

According to the DNR, black bears are most common in Northern Wisconsin, but the population has expanded south. At least three sightings have been reported in the viewing area of our Madison affiliate so far in 2023. 

Bears are naturally cautious and often end up interacting with people because of food or other attractants. If the animal finds food, it will return until the resource is unavailable and may even come back for several weeks after it goes away. 

DNR Wildlife Damage Specialist Brad Koele said limiting attractants could prevent potential conflict. 

"Grills, bird feeders and unsecured trash containers or garbage cans are the most common attractants," he said. "It is important to make sure these attractants are inaccessible to bear at all times of the year, but it’s especially important in the spring when natural food sources are limited. Taking proactive steps now will decrease the likelihood of conflict.”

In additional to removing bird feeders, the DNR suggests cleaning up the seeds where the feeder was. 

When it comes to garbage, the DNR has several suggestions. Clean cans before putting them in garbage or recycling containers to reduce odors, keep meat scraps in the freezer until garbage day and keep garbage cans inside a building until the morning of pick up. Those with commercial dumpsters should lock them. 

The DNR also says pet food should be kept inside. 

If ever someone comes in contact with a bear, whether near a home or in the woods, the DNR urges trying to scare it. This can be done by making loud noises and waving arms. Only throw something toward the bear from a safe distance.

The DNR also recommends to make sure the bear has an escape route and to not corner it. Try and stay calm and don't run away. Rather, back up slowly to somewhere safe until the bear leaves. 

These reminders aren't the only resource the DNR has when it comes to bear safety. The agency has a pamphlet that serves as an educational resource on how to co-exist with bears.

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