MADISON (WKOW) — The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources wants you to bear some tips in mind to avoid conflicts with our ursine friends this summer.
The DNR says that there have been several black bear sightings across the state recently, and even though they traditionally reside up north, populations have slowly been expanding south over the last ten years. The recent sightings in Waukesha and Washington counties are proof of this.
Sightings usually increase in early summer when young bears strike out on their own for the first time. This is roughly the same time as bear breeding season, so many male bears may stumble upon humans as they are out searching for a mate.
The DNR says that black bears are naturally cautious and avoid humans, but conflicts can arise between the two, like bears destroying apiaries, trash cans and gardens.
This is especially true if a bear associates humans with food sources, such as trash cans or a human actively feeding them. Smells can lead bears to urban areas, and if a bear finds food near a home or cabin, it will likely keep coming until the food is no longer there. It may take several days or weeks for bear to stop coming around once the food source is removed.
For your and Wisconsin bears' safety, the DNR asks you to keep these tips in mind as you go about your summer.
The DNR says if you encounter a bear:
- From a safe location, wave your arms and make noise to scare it away.
- Back away slowly and look for a safe place where you can wait for the bear to leave.
- When scaring a bear away, make sure it has a clear escape route; never corner a bear.
- If you encounter a bear while in the woods, do not run. Stay calm and do not approach the bear.
- Never approach any bear.
- For your safety, do not attempt to break up a fight between your pet and a bear.
The DNR says you can avoid attracting black bears by:
- Do not intentionally feed a bear.
- Remove bird feeders.
- Clean up spilled seed from beneath your bird feeders.
- Reduce garbage odors by rinsing food cans before putting them in covered recycling containers or garbage cans.
- Keep meat scraps in your freezer until garbage day, and if possible, keep garbage cans in a closed building until the morning of pick-up.
- Lock commercial dumpsters.
- Keep pet food inside or inaccessible to bears, even during daytime hours.
- Keep grills and picnic tables clean.
If you are unable to resolve a conflict with a bear, contact the USDA Wildlife Services at 1-800-433-0663 for properties in Southern Wisconsin and 1-800-228-1368 for properties in Northern Wisconsin. Most complaints are resolved through technical advice.