Will Brazen Black Bears Start Wreaking Havoc in Central New York?
Will hungry black bears soon cause constant headaches in the Mohawk Valley?
Problem black bears are making life a living hell in my old hometown for weeks now. A few weeks back, a bear broke into a goat pen and killed all the animals inside, which devastated the owner.
Since then, residents have reported seeing the same bear (or bears) prowling around their livestock. Some claimed to have even chased bears out of their barns full of horses.
Even worse, one resident claimed a bear circled her home and spent a good amount of time trying to getting inside. She also captured video of the disturbing incident.
This appears to be happening all over Connecticut, which is causing citizens to beg local lawmakers to enact a bear hunting season, but it's unlikely that'll come to pass.
Seeing all that made me wonder if this could happen right here in Central New York. We have plenty of farmland full of chickens, goats, horses, sheep and other animals that bears would find absolutely delicious.
Will problem bears rear their ugly heads in CNY?
Unlike Connecticut, New York does have a bear hunting season, which has animal experts admit it probably helps bears keep a healthy fear of humans. Maybe that is why New York isn't seeing a surge of bear-related incidents in recent weeks.
If you ever seen a bear up close - you know how terrifying they can seem. 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.
That said, it's likely people don't want bears to wander onto their property and cause trouble.
It's estimated New York has 6,000 to 8,000 black bears in areas open to hunting - far more than the estimated 1,000 to 1,200 bears causing a scene across Connecticut. That doesn't mean the Empire State bears are on their best behavior.
Recently, a black bear attacked a 7-year-old boy that was playing in his backyard in the Westchester County town of Bedford. The boy survived while the bear was shot and killed.
The news comes after residents in Ilion and East Herkimer reported having bears digging through their trash and rummaging around their properties.
These creatures are pretty well established across New York's Southern Tier, as well as the Hudson Valley and Tug Hill.
That said, black bears are still pretty rare here in Central NY, but it should be noted that the Mohawk Valley was listed by New York's Department of Environmental Conservation that the area routinely deals with transient bears.
Meaning, we could be seeing these creatures a whole lot more in a few years - and I speak from experience.
Bears were only really found in Northwestern Connecticut for years, but recently they've been making the rounds all over and have established themselves in my old stomping grounds, which is not great for farmers.
What I am saying is that it can happen here if Central New Yorkers don't take precautions now.
In order to revoke any invitation to these gigantic mammals, wildlife experts say the key is to not let bears learn to associate humans with food.
A bear could be euthanized if it loses its fear of humans. To prevent that from happening, 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.
Why are bears becoming more bold?
With winter fast approaching, bears have entered their fattening season. During the fall months, bears will eat and drink literally nonstop to put on as much weight as possible before going into hibernation.
The process of becoming literal food vacuums is called hyperphagia, where bears will become super active and food motivated to pack on the pounds.
Unfortunately, bears are opportunistic - and lazy - eaters. That means they will always choose the path of least resistance when it comes to filling their stomachs. Paired with their ultra-keen sense of smell, they can follow any scent if they have a feeling it'll lead them to an easy score.
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.
Unfortunately, with these prime sources of food located so close to humans, they are actively putting themselves in danger. Once they learn they can find food around humans, they can become bold, aggressive, and dangerous.
But, if a bear refuses to keep its distance from humans, then euthanasia is put on the table.
Preventing problem bears in Central New York
New York's DEC encourages residents to consider what a bear would consider food and make a conscious effort to remove the temptation.
When it comes to garbage, which is one of their favorite snacks, residents are highly encouraged to secure their trash in bear-proof bins and to not wheel them out until the morning of collection.
Residents are also encouraged to take down their bird feeders and suet when bears are in the process of hyperphagia. They love 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.
Bears don't need our help to survive
Despite how ravenous these creatures are at this time, they aren't starving nor do they need your help to survive. Wildlife officials say residents who try feeding the bears are actually signing their death certificate.
Wildlife experts also encourage people to maintain bears' healthy fear of humans. If you encounter a bear in the wild, stay calm and make yourself as large and imposing as possible to these animals.
You should also be making loud noises to not only encourage the bear to turn tail, but to alert people that you're in possible in danger.
Black bear attacks on people are rare, and they will remain rare as long as these creatures instinctively avoid humans.
In all, protecting you and your property comes down to removing any and all potential food sources for these bears.
What you should do if a bear does visit your property
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.
From there, 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.