Michael Smith
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While winter is certainly hanging on until the very last second this year, warmer weather is on the way and with that New York’s black bears will be coming out of hibernation and will be on the move.

According to the Department of Environmental Conservation, New York is home to between 6,000 and 7,000 bears that will now need to find food to make up for all those months of hibernation. In order to do this, bears must often cross roads or pass through developed areas to get to their preferred habitat.

During their travels, they often find human foods that are easy to get to if homeowners don't take necessary precautions. If that happens at your house, or your neighbors house, they may be hard to get rid of and seeing a bear in your yard can be a frightening experience. Take it from me, a few years ago I couldn’t get back inside fast enough after stepping off our back porch and seeing a black bear about fifteen feet away coming up our hill.

Obviously, not every bear that passes through neighborhoods is a problem bear, but you probably don't want them sticking around to long. Here's a few tips, from the NYSDEC on how to avoid encounters with these animals in your own yard.

  • Take down bird feeders after April. Birds don’t need supplemental food in the spring and summer, when natural foods are most abundant (even if you believe your bird feeder to be inaccessible to bears, the birds will drop seed on the ground, which attracts bears to your yard).
  • Clean off barbeque grills before night fall (don’t forget the grease trap), and if possible, store grills inside when not in use.
  • Store garbage in a secure building or location, secure can lids with ropes/bungees/chains; never over-fill cans, and dispose of garbage as frequently as possible.
  • Do not add meat scraps, bones or melon rinds to your compost pile
  • Feed pets indoors and store pet food indoors. If pets must be fed outside, immediately remove all uneaten food and dishes.

To learn more about bears, or to report a problem, click here.