By Eugenia Jones
Earlier this year when McCreary Countians began social distancing and staying healthy at home due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it almost seemed like local black bears joined in and kept their distance too. However, with stay at home orders lifting and people moving about more, the local bears seem happy to make an appearance.
Of course, it’s also the time of year when black bears naturally roam as they go looking for enough food to fill their bellies. Typically, bears roam during the spring as they try to find enough food to tide them over until blackberries ripen. Once blackberries ripen, and if plentiful, bears are content to remain close by their natural food supply.
It’s also the time of year when mama bears chase away their young. While female yearlings typically stay close by the mother’s home range, males roam great distances.
According to Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Biologist Mike Strunk, it is best to be proactive in preventing a nuisance bear problem rather than being reactive. Normally, black bears are timid creatures who run away from people. However, problems arise when they acclimate to humans and their food. Problems also arise when a bear feels trapped or cornered.
“It’s a lot easier to take steps to avoid creating a nuisance bear problem than it is to correct it,” Strunk said. “Once a bear loses that natural fear of people and gets accustomed to looking for easy food sources created by humans, it’s hard to correct the problems that occur.”
Locals share stories about their bear encounters.
A few tips for
avoiding a nuisance bear problem are:
-Never feed or approach bears.
-Secure food, garbage, and recycling. Do not put garbage out until the morning of pick up. Do not toss food scraps in the yard or “over the hill.”
-Remove bird feeders when bears are active.
-Never leave pet food outdoors. Feed pets and farm animals only the amount of food they will eat. Self-feeders are discouraged.
-Clean and store BBQ grills. Keep picnic tables clean and rinse out garbage cans.
-Use electric fencing to discourage bears from roaming around bee hives, gardens, and fruit trees.
-Be very careful about proper storage and disposal of food items when camping or picnicking. Within the Daniel Boone National Forest, the U.S. Forest Service enforces its own food storage restrictions by requiring that food cannot be left unattended unless properly stored in (a.) bear-resistant containers, (b) a closed motor vehicle with a solid top or a hard-body trailer or (c.) suspended at least ten feet clear of the ground at all points and at least four feet horizontally from the supporting tree or pole and any other tree or pole adjacent to the support. The Forest Service also prohibits burning or burying any food, refuse, or bear attractant and requires that any disposal of food or refuse be in bear-resistant trash containers.
It is illegal to intentionally or unintentionally feed bears on public or private land. Feeding is punishable by fines and/or imprisonment.
Bear sightings and bear reports can be made by calling 376-8083 during normal business hours (M-F) or 1-800-25ALERT (1-800-252-5378) for wildlife or wildlife dispatch at any time 24/7.