If you live in one of the 67 counties in Pennsylvania that has black bears, chances are you’ve seen a black bear or know someone who has seen one. The Pennsylvania black bear population has grown considerably in the past 40 years. In the 1970s, it was estimated that 4,000 black bears lived in Pennsylvania. Today approximately 18,000 live in the state. Black bears live in a variety of habitats but prefer to stay near forested areas. The black bear is an omnivore, which means it will eat just about anything. That sometimes leads to conflicts with humans.
Causes of Black Bear Conflicts
People sometimes leave food out for bears without realizing it.
- Birdseed left out in feeders can potentially become “bear seed.” Bears don’t know that this food is only meant for birds. The nutritious seeds make a great meal for bears.
- Another accidental bear attractant is garbage. Food scraps discarded in household trash make a fine dinner for bears. Fifty percent of conflicts with bears involve birdfeeders, and 40 percent involve garbage – imagine the reduction in nuisance bear problems if a few simple steps were taken to reduce these attractants.
- Additionally, bears may discover that outdoor pet food can become a regular treat. When food is left out for a cat or dog, the bear sees it as an easy opportunity for a meal.
- A bear attractant that people often don’t consider is an outdoor grill. When food is cooked on the grill, residual grease or food often remains. Bears will be more than happy to try to lick that up.
How to Reduce a Bear’s Attraction to Your Property
- Put bird feeders and seed away or keep it inside at night. Birds don’t need supplemental feeding in the spring and summer months.
- Keep garbage inside until trash day. Wait until the morning of pick-up to put garbage out. Try to keep the trash inside, in a garage or shed. It is also a good idea to put ammonia, bleach or powdered garden lime in the bags. This will help eliminate the odors and give the trash a bad smell or taste to the bear.
- Don’t leave extra pet food outside.
- Burn off all grease and food on the grill.
If you have tried the aforementioned deterrents and a bear still frequents your property, or, if a bear is acting aggressively or damaging property, you may want to call the Game Commission. The agency may deem the bear a candidate to trap and relocate. Region office contact information can be found here: http://bit.ly/ROffice
Trapping and Relocating Bears
Trapping bears is a last solution because it does not always work. Some bears will not go into traps because they have been caught before or are just naturally wary of them. If the bear is caught and relocated it will often make its way back, even if it is moved several miles away. When relocating bears, wildlife conservation officers try not to take them across major highways because if the bear attempts to go back it has a greater chance of getting hit on the highway. This limits the traveled distance and locations for appropriate releases. Bear relocations may also result in the bear causing conflicts in the area where it was released.
It is unlawful to intentionally lay or place food, fruit, hay, grain, chemical, salt or other minerals that may cause bears to congregate or habituate an area. The intent of this regulation is to protect the public from bears, not to put a stop to other wildlife feeding or songbird feeding. However, the regulation enables Game Commission wildlife conservation officers to issue written notices to cease songbird and other wildlife feeding if bears are being attracted to the area and causing a nuisance for property owners or neighbors.
What is often called a “nuisance bear” actually is just a bear being a bear. By following some of the advice and tips in this article, you can help prevent nuisance bear problems.
By: Mark Kropa
Pennsylvania Game Commission
Wildlife Conservation Officer