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Quick tips can help homeowners avoid potential bear conflicts

Published by Central Office April 25, 2017

Contact(s): Brad Koele, DNR wildlife biologist, 715-356-5211

MADISON -- Many black bears have begun to emerge from their dens throughout Wisconsin, and homeowners are encouraged to take precautions to avoid potential conflicts.

Black bears normally avoid contact with people, but when food sources are available bears can quickly learn to associate humans with food.
Black bears normally avoid contact with people, but when food sources are available bears can quickly learn to associate humans with food.
Photo Credit: DNR

"Many conflicts between homeowners and black bears occur as a result of some type of attractant, especially bird feeders, garbage cans, grills, uncontained compost or pet food left outside and accessible" said Brad Koele, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources wildlife damage specialist.

According to Koele, it is especially important to remove these attractants during the spring, when bears are emerging from dens and looking to restore depleted energy reserves when natural foods are limited.

It is illegal to intentionally feed bears in Wisconsin, but it is also important for homeowners to make sure they do not unintentionally feed bears via an accessible food source near their home. Black bears normally avoid contact with people, but when food sources are available bears can quickly learn to associate humans with food.

If a bear finds food such as bird feed or garbage near your home it will likely return, but visits are more likely to stop when food is no longer available. Bears will periodically check sites where food was once available, so it may take several days to weeks before a bear will quit visiting a site once the food source has been removed.

The "Living with Bears in Wisconsin" document, found at dnr.wi.gov, keywords "wildlife damage" will help landowners learn more about co-existing with bears in Wisconsin.

Homeowners can follow these steps to avoid attracting black bears:

"If a bear is near your home, wave your arms and make noise to scare it away--back away slowly and seek a safe location 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," said Koele. "If you encounter a bear while in the woods, stay calm and do not approach the bear. Never approach a sow with cubs, and do not attempt to break-up a fight between your pet and a bear."

The department partners with U.S. Department of Agriculture - Wildlife Services to respond to approximately 800 bear-related complaints reported in Wisconsin each year. Homeowners who are unable to resolve a conflict with a bear should contact the USDA Wildlife Services toll-free line at 1-800-433-0663 for properties in Southern Wisconsin, and 1-800-228-1368 for properties Northern Wisconsin.

For more information regarding bears and safety, visit dnr.wi.gov and search keywords "bear."

Last Revised: Tuesday, April 25, 2017

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