The Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency (TWRA) receives more calls about black bears in late spring than any other time of year because young bears are striking out on their own and leaving their mothers in search of their own territory. Young bears wander and most often find themselves in unfamiliar surroundings including suburban areas.
Bears roaming into new areas are often attracted to easy meals including bird feeders, trash, bird baths and pet food bowls with leftover food. These items and more can unintentionally lure bears and other unwanted wildlife and keep them from moving into more natural habitats. Bears accustomed to foods provided by humans are easily conditioned and pose a greater threat.
Dealing with a nuisance bear isn’t as simple as most think. “Bears cannot simply be relocated,” stated Ben Layton, TWRA Region III Big Game Biologist. Officials take several things into consideration including females with cubs, the number of times a bear has caused an issue, the level of aggressiveness and the location and the nuisance concern itself.
Bear issues are most often human initiated. Trash, food attractants and an unwillingness to change their practices aggravate the situation. Layton continued, “Relocating a conditioned, dangerous bear to another area just moves the dangerous bear and this isn’t an option.” Bears will travel impressive distances to return to an area where they easily found food.
Layton added, “Euthanization isn’t our goal and it’s disconcerting when we reach this level.” TWRA’s goal is to encourage people to understand that human behavior most often causes nuisance bear issues. People think they’re protecting something or helping it when they purposefully put out table scraps or leave feeders in their yards. However, they’re worsening a dangerous situation, and in the end, it causes harm to wildlife.
Following a few guidelines can decrease negative interactions and help bears stay wild. Bears accustomed to foods provided by humans are easily conditioned and are far more likely to lose their life.
TIPS FOR ENCOUNTERING A BLACK BEAR
- If you see a bear in your yard, look large and make a lot of noise, back slowly away.
- Never approach or follow a bear to take photos.
- Never purposefully feed bears.
- Remove all attractants from your yard including bird feeders, uneaten pet food and ripe fruits or garden vegetables.
- Store grills in a garage or outbuilding.
- Store trash and recycling in bear proof containers.
- Ask your neighbors to follow these guidelines.
- Visit bearwise.org, a national site dedicated to reducing human-bear conflicts.