Spring is here and that means black bears are on the move to fill their empty stomachs.

Recently, a former co-worker watched a black bear help itself to his garbage bin before the trash collectors got to his street. A few days before that, a black bear ripped down and demolished a wooden bird feeder hanging in my parents' backyard.

These are just two of the many recent examples of black bears causing headaches. However, there is one black bear that has gone down in history for being the largest (and maybe fattest) of them all.

Black Bears in New York

Photo: Steve Smith Albany Police
Photo: Steve Smith Albany Police

It's estimated New York has 6,000 to 8,000 black bears in areas open to hunting. These creatures are pretty well established across New York's Southern Tier, as well as the Hudson Valley and Tug Hill.

Bears are opportunistic eaters and will always choose the path of least resistance when it comes to scoring a meal. Their ultra-keen sense of smell helps them follow any scent, even if its behind a closed object like a door or window.

Read More: New Yorkers Throw out $1,000 in Uneaten Food Every Year

That is why we hear about bears tearing up trash cans, breaking into vehicles and, unfortunately, killing pets. Although they are capable of catching wild prey, they'd prefer to to hunt animals trapped in pens or cages.

Largest Black Bear in New York History

BirdImages from Getty Images Signature
BirdImages from Getty Images Signature

Male bears can grow up to 550 pounds while females, called sows, can tip the scales at 300 pounds. Both can grow up to six feet in length.

But either due to wacky genetics or pure luck of scoring nonstop, fatty meals - there are some black bears that managed to break the scales and make state history.

The largest black bear ever handled in the Empire State weighed a whopping 684 pounds when it was alive. That's about the same size as a male grizzly bear.

There was just one other bear that was even bigger than that, but it doesn't officially hold the title since its size was an estimate. The bear was never handled and just spotted in the wild, but animal experts believed it weighed 750 pounds, according to state records.

While there are some people who have never seen a black bear in the wild, chances are no one wants to see a bear that large in their backyard.

Keep reading to learn how to keep these wild animals off your property.

Preventing Problem Bears in New York

TS Media Center
TS Media Center

The New York Department of Environmental Conservation launched a new educational campaign called BearWise. They outline the steps residents can take to deter hungry bears from invading their yards.

Residents are highly encouraged to secure their trash in bear-proof bins and to not wheel them out until the morning of collection.

Homeowners should also take down their bird feeders and suet now that black bears are awake. They adore bird seed and suet to them is a caloric delight.

Recently, bears are also prone to tear apart grills or smokers. If these items aren't cleaned correctly, bears will dismantle them to get at the grease tray or drippings from the grates.

Bears will also suck down compost piles if they contain discarded food scraps like meat and fruit. For that, wildlife officials say sprinkling lime on the pile will make it smell less interesting to these hungry critters.

In the rare instance a bear visits your backyard, you have two options: do nothing and wait for the bear to leave or try to scare the bear away with loud noises.

After the bear leaves, wildlife experts say you should check around your home to find what may have attracted it and promptly remove the temptation.

New York officials also warn residents to never feed the bears because that's putting their lives at risk.

Problem Bears Are Euthanized


Wildlife experts say it's paramount that bears maintain their healthy fear of humans.

Once a bear learns to associate people with food, they become emboldened, aggressive, and dangerous. When a bear refuses to keep its distance from humans, euthanasia is likely to follow.

Black bear attacks on people are rare and wildlife experts say they will remain rare as long as these creatures instinctively avoid humans.

Report the sighting to your regional DEC office and alert your neighbors so they, too, can take these preventative steps.

You can also check out the DEC's Black Bear response menu to better inform yourself about the best steps to take should problem wildlife take a shining to your backyard.

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