ALBANY, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — According to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYS DEC), black bears move more during the month of June, so neighbors may be seeing these hibernating habitators in their backyards more often.

June is the beginning of black bear breeding season and yearling bears (one-year-olds) start to wander to find their own space.

Inevitably some of these bears, particularly the young ones, wander through suburban and urban neighborhoods.

Their acute sense of smell may lead them to food sources in backyards like garbage, birdseed, livestock, pet food, and barbecue grill grease traps. Once a bear has found a food source, it might return or seek similar food at neighboring properties.

These bad behaviors can lead to property damage for humans.

For bears, these bad behaviors put them at risk as well. Bears that frequent developed areas are more likely to be hit by vehicles, illegally killed by people who perceive them as a threat, or euthanized for dangerous behavior.

“We have recently begun to see a rise in reported sightings of black bears in suburban and urban areas,” Commissioner Basil Seggos said. “While seeing a bear is an exciting experience for many New Yorkers, bears that are inadvertently fed by humans exhibit unnatural behaviors and can become a nuisance. DEC encourages homeowners, property managers, and outdoor enthusiasts to follow guidance to reduce bears’ access to attractants like garbage, birdseed, and pet food to discourage nuisance bears.” 

Here are some ways you can reduce potential conflicts with bears in your community.

  • Take down bird feeders
  • Store garbage containers and pet/livestock feed securely indoors
  • Put garbage out on the curb the morning of collection, not the night before
  • Clean grill grease traps
  • Close garage doors and ground-floor windows and doors at night

By reducing potential food sources available to a bear, the bear will continue on its way.

If residents see a bear in an unexpected location they should leave the bear alone. The NYS DEC says given the opportunity, nearly all bears that wander into urban or suburban areas will leave as quickly and quietly as they appeared.

  • Do not intentionally feed bears

Feeding bears intentionally is illegal and a ticket-able offense. Bears will continue to seek food from humans and become a nuisance, which can pose a threat to humans and the bear.

Campers can also take precautions by:

  • Keep campsites as clean as possible
  • Clean up after meals immediately
  • Keep grills, pots, pans, cooking utensils, and wash basins clean when not in use
  • Leave coolers and food inside car trunks or truck cabs
  • Store food and coolers in food lockers when available
  • NEVER keep food, coolers, or scented items in tents when camping
  • Store toiletries securely with coolers and food
  • Do not put grease, garbage, plastic diapers, cans, bottles or other items in the fireplace
  • Dispose of garbage in the campground’s dumpsters every evening

Visitors to the backcountry are encouraged to:

  • Pack a minimal amount of food
  • Use lightweight and dehydrated foods
  • Plan all meals to avoid leftovers
  • Use bear-resistant food canisters (required in Eastern High Peaks Wilderness of Adirondack Park)
  • Cook and eat before dark and cook away from campsites
  • Avoid spills and drippings while cooking
  • Do not pour grease into fire pits
  • Never leave food unattended.

If you do encounter a bear the NYS DEC says don’t panic. Most bears are as afraid of people as people are of bears.

Don’t approach, surround, or corner a bear. Back away slowly and do not run. Don’t throw backpacks or food at bears.

If you are feeling threatened by a bear, raise your arms over your head to look bigger and yell loudly at the bear while slowly backing away.

Call 911if a nuisance bear is an immediate danger to public safety.

If a bear is damaging property or is reluctant to leave the area, but it is not an emergency, call your regional wildlife office during business hours, or call the DEC Law Enforcement Dispatch Center at 1-844-DEC-ECOs (1-844-332-3267).

If bear cubs are known to be orphaned before July, call the DEC. After July, cubs are generally able to survive on their own.

For more information visit the NYS DEC’s website.