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Venturing Out Of The Woods

DEC Gives City Residents Tips To Avoid Attracting Bears

A black bear was sighted June 12, near Foote Avenue, just south of the city limits, near the Kwik Fill gas station running across the street. Submitted photo

Bears seem to be everywhere in southern Chautauqua County lately.

Area residents with their cell phones at the ready, or the help of a security camera, have caught bears swimming in Chautauqua Lake, crossing the road near the Foote Avenue Kwik Fill or ambling about in downtown Jamestown.

“I was driving home when a black bear ran across the road on Foote Avenue,” said Shelly Lindquist, a resident of Jamestown. “It was in broad daylight; I couldn’t believe it.”

The only common denominator is that the bears are being seen in areas they don’t usually frequent, almost exclusively near human dwellings and habitation.

“Please do not feed the bears” is part of the warning issued by the state Department of Conservation officials in an email, received Friday.

A large, black bear is pictured running across Foote Avenue, near the Kwik Fill gas station, recently. Black bear sightings are on the rise in Jamestown. Submitted photo

As cute and cuddly as bears may appear, DEC officials advise bears are still wild and free animals and should be respected. New York law requires that residents and visitors not only not feed or interact with these protected creatures, but there should be no interactions with them in any way. According to dec.ny.gov, the deliberate, intentional feeding of black bears is prohibited. The incidental, indirect feeding of black bears becomes unlawful once the department has issued a written warning.

“As New York’s bear population increased over the past two decades, their range also increased. It is not uncommon for young bears dispersing from their birth range in the spring to wander into or through developed areas,” T.J. Pignataro, assistant public information officer for the state Department of Environmental Conservation wrote in an email received Friday. “The same guidance and advice for living with bears that has worked in countless locations across the region and state also apply to suburban and urban environments. Frequently, humans unknowingly create potential food sources for bears. This may attract bears into close proximity with residential areas and subsequently result in human-bear conflicts. Most conflicts with bears in New York can be resolved or minimized by removing or adequately securing whatever served to attract them. The most common items that attract bears to residential areas are food sources like unsecured garbage, bird feeders, feeding pets outside, and messy grills.”

The rash of recent bear sightings has spurred Jamestown City Council to ask residents for assistance in mitigating bear encounters in the city. In a May 15 Post-Journal article, Joe Paterniti, R-Ward 4, said city officials were requesting residents remove bird feeders from their properties after bear sightings began being reported.

“Those of us that live on the west side near Ellicott have been inundated with Ring Doorbell sightings and postings of, not one, but up to four bears,” he said. “The bears appear to be young ones and a mother. They are small ones, but a mother bear will protect her cubs.”

The DEC has compiled a list of “do’s and don’ts” to help mitigate and minimize human v. bear encounters.

– Remove bird feeders. Bird feed such as suet and seeds are an extraordinarily strong attraction for bears, even if they cannot reach them.

– Secure all trash cans. Garbage is extremely attractive to bears. It should always be kept in sealed garbage cans inside a sturdy building like a garage or shed. Anything with an odor can attract a bear. Burning garbage is illegal in many municipalities, and may increase its attractiveness to bears.

– Mask garbage odors with ammonia-soaked rags; if you have curbside garbage pickup- take out trash just before your scheduled pickup. Do not put garbage at the curb the night before; do not place meat or bones in compost piles.

– Remove the grease can from grills after every use. Turn the grill on “high” for several minutes after you are done cooking to burn residual odors off the grill; do not place food outside to attract wildlife.

– Any food items used to attract birds, squirrels, or other wildlife will also attract bears; do not feed pets outside. Leftover food or even an empty dish can attract a bear.

– Electric Fencing is an effective tool for keeping bears out of apiaries, chicken coops, compost, and gardens; do not operate refrigerators or freezers outside or on porches -bears can smell what is inside.

Additionally, when a nuisance bear presents an immediate danger to public safety, call 911; If a bear is damaging property or is reluctant to leave the area, but the situation is not an emergency, call the regional wildlife office during business hours, or the DEC Law Enforcement Dispatch Center at 1-844-332-3267; in these non-emergency incidents, DEC reminds callers to stay quiet, move slowly, and observe only from a distance until ECOs or wildlife staff arrive.

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