With many residents at home during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, or DEEP, is reminding people to be "bear aware.”
According to DEEP, the state's bear population continues to grow and expand. In 2019, there were approximately 7,300 bear sightings across the state.
“If you genuinely care about bears, you should never feed them – either intentionally or unintentionally,” Jenny Dickson, DEEP Wildlife Division Director, said in a release. “Bears become habituated, losing their fear of humans, when attracted to homes by easily-accessible food sources. Such bears spend more time in neighborhoods and near people, increasing public safety concerns, the likelihood of property damage, and the possibility that the bears may be hit and killed by vehicles or meet with some other misfortune.”
According to DEEP, there are simple things people can do to avoid bear problems including not feeding them, taking down birdfeeders, and storing garbage in a secure, airtight container. Experts add outdoor grills should be cleaned and stored.
Bears will also kill chickens, so coops should be sturdy and secure.
DEEP adds those with dogs should keep an eye on them while walking or hiking. A roaming dog may be perceived as a threat to a bear or its cubs.