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Keep the Wild in Wildlife

May 19, 2017

Residents urged to work together to prevent problems with bears

John Hast has a word of advice for anyone tempted to throw doughnuts or food scraps to a bear: Don’t.

Residents urged to work together to prevent problems with bears

“We’ve found that time and time again, a fed bear is a dead bear,” said Hast, the bear program coordinator for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. “A bear that is used to human food, whether it’s scraps or garbage, begins to lose its fear of people. And that’s where the problems begin.”

Department employees have already euthanized more than one bear this year because the animals had been fed by humans and presented a potential danger to the public. Hast said communities working together can prevent this kind of outcome.

“How can people help keep the wild in wildlife?” Hast said. “The solution can be as easy as not putting your garbage out until the morning it’s picked up. A garbage can set out overnight is a tempting target for a bear, and teaches them that humans are a source of food.”

The need for bear awareness now extends beyond the mountains of eastern Kentucky as the state’s bear population expands. Because young male bears displaced from their home areas may wander widely in the spring and summer, it’s possible to see a roaming bear anywhere in the state. This week, Kentucky Fish and Wildlife officials have received reports of a bear working its way through Henry County into Shelby then Spencer counties.

“The bear observed in Spencer County this week is likely a male that got kicked out of the breeding range in the mountains recently,” Hast said. “We had two bears move through central Kentucky last summer; one ended up crossing the river to Indiana while the other spent time at Bernheim Forest.”

Residents in bear areas can do more than just keep their garbage in a secure location until pickup. Other suggestions for making an area less attractive to bears include:

· Only feeding outside pets what they will eat at one sitting, and not leaving pet food out overnight.

· Removing birdfeeders in spring and summer. Birds have plenty of natural foods available at this time of year.

· Keeping grills clean and changing drip pans frequently.

· Throwing food scraps in the trash, not a yard or fire pit.

· Surrounding beehives with an electric fence, an effective bear deterrent.

As for those doughnuts? Feeding a bear is against the law in Kentucky. Call 1-800-25-ALERT if you spot someone doing this.

Kentucky Fish and Wildlife maintains an extensive amount of information on its website. Go online to fw.ky.gov and search under the key words, “black bear.”

“We all can help wildlife remain wild by being responsible with our food scraps and garbage,” Hast said. “A few small changes in our habits, like keeping garbage secure and inaccessible, can keep bears, coyotes and other animals that are only looking for an easy meal from becoming a nuisance.”

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