Connecticut (WTNH) – The Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) sent residents a warning Monday to be aware as bears prepare for winter hibernation.
According to DEEP, bears increase their food intake in the fall to add fat reserves needed for hibernation. They eat up to 20 hours a day and up to 10 times the calories they normally consume – at least 20,000 calories a day. DEEP warns the public that bears may approach human dwellings for forage. You may be attracted to bird feeders, outdoor pet food, and/or overflowing litter containers.
But, there are simple ways to reduce the likelihood of encountering a bear in or near your home:
- Never feed bearsintentionally or unintentionally
- If you choose to place bird feeders, do so in the winter months of December through late March when the bears are in their dens. Although most bears enter their dens at some point, some can remain active for parts or the entire winter season if food is available. It is important that you clear spilled seeds from the ground when feeding them during the winter and remove bird feeders at the first sign of bear activity. If you live in an area with bears, it is best to avoid bird feeders altogether.
- Store trash in secure, airtight containers within a garage or storage area. Adding ammonia to cans and bags will reduce odors that attract bears. Clean trash cans periodically with ammonia to reduce residual odors. Litter collected outside the home should be placed on the morning of the day of collection and not the night before.
- Don’t store leftover bird seed, suet cake, or recyclable items in a covered porch or sunroom where bears can sniff out these items and will tear off screens to get to them.
- Keep barbecue grills clean. Store grills inside a garage or shed.
- Monitor dogs at all times when you are outside. Keep dogs on a short leash when walking and hiking. A wandering dog may be seen as a threat to the bear or its cubs. (Dogs are required to be on a leash when visiting state parks, state forests, and wildlife management areas. Check dog and leash regulations for city properties, land trusts, and other public properties before heading into those areas.)
- Do not leave pet food outside or feed pets outside.
- Use electric fence to protect beehives, agricultural crops, berry bushes, chickens and other livestock.
- Avoid putting scraps of meat or sweet foods, such as fruit and fruit peels, in compost piles.
“Bears rewarded with easy meals spend more time in neighborhoods and near people, which increases public safety risks, the potential for property damage, and the potential for bears to be injured and killed by vehicles,” explained Jenny Dixon, Director of DEEP Wildlife.
If you come across a bear in your yard or while hiking, “Make your presence known by shouting or other loud noises. Never try to approach a bear. If the bear does not retreat, leave the area slowly. If you are in your garden, go into your home, garage, or other building.” Else. If the bear persistently approaches, go to the attack – shout, wave your arms and throw sticks or stones. If your dog is walking with you, it is necessary to keep the dog on a short leash and not allow it to roam freely – this is for the safety of your dog, yourself and the bear.
In the rare event when a bear appears aggressive towards people, residents should immediately call the 24-hour DEEP dispatch line at 860-424-3333.
DEEP has more information at the “Living with Black Bears” website, https://portal.ct.gov/DEEP-Living-with-Black-Bears. DEEP has also created a video with many of these best practices, available here.