Joe P. Asher
With the summer months rapidly approaching, there is an increased chance that people will come in contact with local wildlife, some of which has the potential to be dangerous. With the black bear population in the area more active during warm weather, chances of an encounter become more likely.
Conservation Officer Steve Combs has some simple tips for how to deal with a bear should one wander into your vicinity.
“The number one thing with the black bear is not to feed it. Do not feed the black bear,” stated Combs. “We actually have laws in place for that. It’s a thousand dollar fine for feeding the bear. We also have a law for indirect feeding of a bear.”
Combs pointed out some specifics concerning the law covering indirect feeding of bears.
“The whole point of it is bears are scavengers, and right now they’re coming out of the dens and there’s basically not a lot of natural food for them…they come out of the den pretty hungry so you’re going to have more human interaction,” stated Combs. “Basically that indirect feeding law means if you leave things like your trash, pet food, any of that livestock food, things of that nature in areas were people can be around and leave that stuff unsecured it’s considered indirect feeding. You’re not directly trying to feed that bear but leaving those things unsecured is giving a source of food for those bears which brings them in around people.”
Combs advised that indirect feeding of bears can be punishable by up to $2,000 in fines and restitution and six months in jail.
Comb explained the danger with leaving unsecured food out where bears can get it is it can cause the bears to lose their natural fear of humans.
“The more bears get food from people, the more they get comfortable being around them,” said Combs. “Those bears naturally have a fear of people and the more they eat out of garbage or people leaving stuff out for them because they want to see them, the more they’ll come around, and the harder they are to scare away.”
If you do encounter a bear, it usually requires little effort to scare them off.
“Generally you just be big and loud and a bear will leave the area,” advises Combs. “Some of them will run off, some of them will just turn and walk away, look back at you every now and then trying to figure out what you are.”
According to Combs, black bears are almost always non aggressive. But there are some rare situations that may cause a bear to protect itself or its young.
Actions such as approaching cubs can be viewed by the bear as an aggressive act, and the bear will then protect it’s young. Do not approach cubs under any circumstances.
“Don’t approach the bear. Black bears are generally not an aggressive animal, they’re probably one of the least aggressive of bear species,” stated Combs. “A lot of people will try…to hand feed them, and that’s when they’re going to get swatted.”
Combs also advised you should not surprise a bear, as any animal is dangerous if it is surprised. In the case of a black bear, it’s normal defense is to attempt to scare away the threat.
“When a bear gets scared, it’s defense is to try and scare you away. What they’ll do is they’ll huff, they’ll blow, make big loud noises, pop their teeth together, sometimes they’ll beat their front paws on the ground. This is not an indication that they’re going to charge or attack,” Combs explained. “When they do that, you just need to back away and give them space. Once enough space is given they usually turn and go their own way.”
Combs pointed out it is important that you do not run from a bear.
“Don’t turn and run, because it’s just like a cat or dog when something takes off running, they try to catch it,” explained Combs.
According to Combs, there is a lot of incorrect information in the mainstream concerning bear behavior. For example, just because a bear stands up on its hind legs does not mean it’s about to charge.
“Bears have poor eyesight, and they have a really good sense of smell. So, when you’re around and they stand up looking at you, what they’re doing is, there’s different levels of airflow at different heights and they’re trying to get a different sent level and also a different line of sight,” stated Combs.
If you do witness a bear in an area it should not be in, report the incident immediately at 1-800 25ALERT.
Reach Joe P. Asher at 606-573-4510 or email@example.com