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As black bears return across CT, it's time to take down those bird feeders, wildlife officials say

FILE - In this June 1, 2011 file photo, an adult black bear looks over the tall grass near the Tualatin Elementary School in Tualatin, Ore. Authorities said Friday, Sept. 8, 2017 that an extensive poaching ring is responsible for slaughtering more than 100 black bears, cougars, bobcats, deer and elk in southwestern Washington state and northwestern Oregon, with many of the animals hunted with dogs and then left to rot.
Rick Bowmer
/
AP
FILE: Across the state, thousands of human-black bear conflicts are reported annually and long-term trends show those conflicts continue to grow. Meanwhile, breeding populations of bears in Connecticut are also continuing on a long-term trend of expansion, according to DEEP

As black bears return across Connecticut this season, wildlife officials say it’s time to take down bird feeders.

Bird feeders can attract hungry bears looking for a quick meal. They can also raise the risk of human-bear conflicts, according to the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.

“Bears are waking up,” said DEEP Deputy Commissioner Mason Trumble. “Take down your bird feeders. Avoid having bears access food through you, as a human.”

The vast majority of human-bear conflicts involve trash and bird feeders, according to the DEEP.

While the sweeping majority of human-bear interactions pass without incident, these encounters can present dangers to both wildlife and people.

Last year, two people were attacked by bears in Connecticut.

Across the state, thousands of human-black bear conflicts are reported annually and long-term trends show those conflicts continue to grow. Meanwhile, breeding populations of bears in Connecticut are also continuing on a long-term trend of expansion, according to the DEEP.

“We see the photos on social media of bears in your pool. Bears on your swing set. Bears on your trampoline,” Trumble said during a Tuesday morning event with Audubon Connecticut in Southbury. “That’s not cute. That is dangerous. It’s dangerous for you – your family, your pets. It’s also dangerous for the bear.”

Last year, the DEEP reported 35 bear home entries in Connecticut. In 2022, the number of home entries reached a record 67.

“Those bears have learned to associate humans – and dwellings – with food,” Trumble said.

To prevent teaching bears bad behavior, residents should remove all traces of bird food, including hummingbird feeders, from their property, the DEEP says.

Cleaning grills, securing trash cans and waiting until the morning of trash day to put cans on the curb are other ways to mitigate the risk of a hungry bear searching your property for a quick, easy meal.

If you see a bear in your neighborhood, leave it alone and allow it to escape, wildlife officials say.

“Keep dogs leashed, and don't get closer trying to get a better look or take a photo,” the DEEP says.

Patrick Skahill is a reporter and digital editor at Connecticut Public. Prior to becoming a reporter, he was the founding producer of Connecticut Public Radio's The Colin McEnroe Show, which began in 2009. Patrick's reporting has appeared on NPR's Morning Edition, Here & Now, and All Things Considered. He has also reported for the Marketplace Morning Report. He can be reached at pskahill@ctpublic.org.

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