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TWRA: Keep humans, black bears safe

From Staff Reports

Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) biologists and officers ask Tennesseans to educate themselves and their neighbors about proper behavior in bear country. Young male bears are often looking for a new territory this time of year. Furthermore, with the onset of summer and an increase in outdoor activities such as hiking, camping, grilling and gardening, the potential for bear-human interactions increases.

TWRA biologists and wildlife officers remind Tennesseans of the adage, a fed bear is a dead bear. Bears that become habituated to human food pose a much greater human threat. The smell of grease on a grill, ripe vegetables in a garden, trash and bird feeders not only attract bears, they provide easy meals for bears. Once a bear gets this easy meal, it doesn’t forget.             

Many people ask why problem bears aren’t simply moved. Relocating a conditioned, dangerous bear isn’t an option. Bears will travel impressive distances to return to an area where they easily found food. Jason Miller, TWRA wildlife officer stated, “It’s unfair and it isn’t an option to move a dangerous bear to someone else’s neighborhood.”

“Euthanization isn’t our goal and it’s disconcerting when we reach this level,” TWRA Region 3 biologist Ben Layton said. “Our goal is helping people understand that human behavior causes this issue. People think they’re protecting something or helping it when they purposefully put out table scraps or leave feeders in their yards. However, they’re encouraging a dangerous situation and in the end, it causes harm to wildlife”  

Attractants such as bird feeders, trash and pet food bowls with leftover food can lure bears and other unwanted wildlife. Following a few guidelines can decrease negative interactions and help bears stay wild. Bears accustomed to foods provided by humans are easily conditioned and are far more likely to lose their lives because of the threat.  

Help keep bears and humans safe by:

  • Do not purposefully feed bears.
  • Store garbage in bear-proof containers or in a manner that is inaccessible to bears.
  • Do not feed birds between April and January when bears are most active.
  • Remove uneaten pet food from outside areas or feed pets indoors.
  • Do not add greasy foods to your compost piles or compost in bear proof containers.
  • Keep cooking grills clean and stored indoors when not in us.
  • Report problem bears or any odd behavior to your regional TWRA office.

Visit Bebearaware.org, a national site dedicated to reducing human-bear conflicts.