Add bear-proof the garbage to your spring cleaning list and feel good about taking the first step in resolving human-bear conflicts. Easily accessible garbage is irresistible to a hungry black bear and unfortunately, a major threat to its survival. By bear-proofing your garbage, you’ll not only keep your yard tidy, but more importantly, you’ll add years to the lives of some of Georgia’s magnificent wild black bears.
“Bears become habituated when people feed them – whether intentional or not. When a bear learns that it can get a ‘free meal’ from garbage, it’s going to return again and again until eventually it loses its natural fear of humans. This is how many human-bear conflicts begin and the bear becomes labeled a nuisance,” explains Adam Hammond, wildlife biologist with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Wildlife Resources Division.
Homeowners and business owners in known bear areas can be proactive in lessening human-bear conflicts by taking the following important steps to secure their garbage.
- Convert to bear-proof garbage containers, or secure garbage inside a garage or other enclosed area.
- Place garbage cans at the curb on the day of pick-up rather than the night before. If there is no curbside pick-up in the area, take garbage to the nearest disposal site as soon as possible.
- In some cases, the installation of electric fences around garbage storage areas may be useful to prevent bears from accessing household garbage.
- Remove food scraps from grills and fire pits daily.
- Rinse food cans and wrappers before disposal. Keep garbage cans clean and deodorize them periodically.
- Concerning dumpsters: Install bear-proof dumpsters, attach reinforcing lids or install latch mechanisms.
Garbage is just one of the many non-natural food items that attract bears. Birdseed and pet food round out the top three most common types of attractants. Homeowners in known bear areas are advised to bring pet food indoors and remove birdfeeders during the spring and late summer.
In Georgia, there are three population centers for black bears. These include the North Georgia mountains, the Ocmuglee River drainage system in Central Georgia and the Okefenokee Swamp in the southeastern part of the State. However, black bears can and do range over larger areas, especially in early spring and late summer when natural food sources are scarce. Young male bears also are known to roam larger areas in an effort to establish their own territory.
“The best and most effective way to resolve human-bear conflicts is to remove the attractant,” says Hammond. “In most cases, that simply means making trash, birdseed, pet food and other non-natural food items inaccessible.”
Though the American black bear (Ursus americanus) is now considered the most common bear in North America and the only bear found in Georgia, at one point the species was nearly eradicated from the state due to poaching and habitat loss. Yet because of sound wildlife management practices, Georgia’s current black bear population is healthy and thriving and is estimated at approximately 5,100 bears statewide.
For more information regarding black bears, visit www.georgiawildlife.com, contact a Wildlife Resources Division Game Management office or call (770) 918-6416. The public also can visit their local library to check out a copy of an informational DVD entitled, “Where Bears Belong: Black Bears in Georgia.”