Bears are going to act like bears. That might mean digging through your trash can, knocking down your bird feeder, or eating your pet’s leftover food on the back porch.
Thankfully, all these situations are minor, and almost all could be avoided by being BearWise, according to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Resources Division (WRD).
“One of the six BearWise Basics is about securing food, garbage, and recycling. When bears have access to human-provided foods, regardless of the source or the intent, they will take advantage of them, and that often leads to further problems,” says Adam Hammond, WRD’s state bear biologist. “How can we help? By doing things differently to make these sources unavailable. It isn’t always convenient, but it can really pay off to avoid bigger problems or encounters with bears.”
Why is it such a big deal? Usually, bears are just passing through your yard or neighborhood. But a bear that repeatedly finds food from garbage cans, bird feeders, and pet food bowls is unlikely to leave, and will become bolder in its search for easy food. This can lead to property damage to homes, garages, vehicles, and more. Once bears have learned bad habits and have come to rely on people for a “free meal,” they rarely change those behaviors – more often, it gets worse with time and experience. If you really care about bears, please make the extra effort to ensure that your home and yard are “unattractive” to them – to protect yourself, your family and pets, your neighbors and bears.
BearWise is an education program developed by state bear biologists, anchored by the website www.bearwise.org, that offers people specific, detailed, and high-quality information to help us live responsibly with bears and keep bears wild.
The black bear is a symbol of Georgia’s natural diversity as it is the only bear found in the state and is a conservation success story. Though now considered the most common bear in North America, the species was nearly eradicated from Georgia in the 1930s due to unregulated hunting, illegal harvest - including the killing of bears as “vermin,” and large-scale habitat loss. Sound wildlife management practices have restored Georgia’s black bears to a thriving population estimated at 4,100 bears statewide.
Black bears may legally be taken during the hunting season, which occurs each fall in Georgia (georgiawildlife.com/hunting/hunter-resources). However, taking bears any other time of the year is called poaching. Prevent poaching by reporting any illegal activity (by email, phone or in person). Visit gadnrle.org/ranger-hotline for more information.
For more information on living responsibly with bears, visit www.bearwise.org.