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March 31, 2015

MADISON - Spring is right around the corner and many bears have begun to emerge from their dens. Homeowners are encouraged to take precautions to avoid potential conflicts with hungry bears.

"More than 800 bear-related complaints are reported each year," said Brad Koele, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources wildlife damage specialist. "Many of these conflicts occur as a result of some type of attractant, especially bird feeders, garbage cans, grills, uncontained compost or pet food left outside and accessible."

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

According to Koele, it is especially important to remove these attractants during the spring, as 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.

If a bear finds food such as bird feed or garbage near your home it will likely return and visits may 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.

Homeowners can follow these steps to avoid attracting 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. If you encounter a bear while in the woods, stay calm and do not approach it. Never approach a sow with cubs and do not attempt to break-up a fight between your pet and a bear.

The department would also like to remind homeowners that it is unlawful and unethical to shoot at bears with firearms.

"Shooting bears with bird shot is illegal, inhumane and could result in significant injuries or even death for the bear," said Koele. "There are a variety of non-lethal, humane abatement options available for resolving conflicts with bears."

The department partners with U.S. Department of Agriculture - Wildlife Services for responding to black bear complaints, and 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 the DNR web site at and search keywords "bear."

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Brad Koele, DNR wildlife biologist, 715-356-5211; Dan Hirchert, DNR wildlife biologist, 608-267-7974

Last Revised: Tuesday, March 31, 2015

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