All About Bears was a presentation given by Ben Tabor a wildlife biologist from the NYS DEC and KC Kelly a DEC Environmental Conservation Officer. This following information was from his talk at the Long Lake Community Connections evening held on May 9, 2013.
Bears are charismatic mega-fauna. Black bears as a rule are timid, shy and scared and not aggressive (FYI not the same for Black Bears in Canada). Black bears will mark their territory by biting trees, putting their scent on their territory and let other bears know.. “Hey bears, I’m in town, back away from my soft mass.” (code words for berries)
Bears are omnivores and tend to eat vegetarian, but they will eat meat. They are not big hunters, but don’t rule them out when it comes to finding prey, depends on the year and availability of food. Bears will eat berries, acorns, nuts, apples, succulent grasses, dandelions, skunk cabbage, jack in the pulpit, buds of hardwood trees and insects.
Generally bears are not social, but May and June are their breeding season and males and females can be seen together. Bears have delayed implantation so they will be fertilized in the spring, but will not implant the eggs until November. Bears breed every two years. Bears chemically decide how many cubs they have; it’s a combination of hormones, and body fat that makes that determination. All bears give birth on January 20th or 21st. Typical for Adirondack bears are broods of 2-3 cubs but Momma’s can produce from one to five bears and they can even have albinos (not to be mistaken for Polar Bears)
By August 1st the bears are weaned and ready to go off on their own. Sometimes a mom will let them den up with her for one more year, but come spring she sends them on their way. Bears are not adults until they are four years old. Most of the reports to the DEC involve younger bears that tend to get into trouble, whether they are climbing inside dumpsters or approaching someone’s home. If a bear doesn’t get into trouble with the DEC by age three they probably never will. Adult male bears are about 300 pounds and an adult Momma bear about 150 pounds.
Currently New York State boasts about 10,000 bears statewide. There is an effort to sustain the population, and the DEC monitors and develops hunting regulations and makes opportunities available to hunt bear based on the numbers, population and ability to sustain on natural food. The goal is to maintain the bear population for future generations, but to also ensure that the bears don’t become a nuisance to the general population. Bear hunting is a regulated harvest and it’s challenging to find a bear, much less haul it out of the woods, but benefits of bear include their meat which is a good source of protein, hide, fat (when rendered makes a heck of a pie) and the gall used for medicinal purposes. If you hunt bear, cook the meat to an internal temp of 137 degrees because they do carry trichinosis.
Don’t feed bears. A fed bear is a dead bear because once a bear finds a food source; they won’t back away until they’ve exhausted the food source. Bears will eat bird feeders; remove the feeders from April until November. Don’t be surprised if someone knocks on your door if they see bird feeders out and full during the off season.
What do you do if you see a bear? If you see a bear in a tree, don’t call to report it. Leave it alone, it got up the tree, it will come down, but you have to leave it alone. The bear is in the tree for safety.
The best thing to do be pre-emptive before anything escalates. Call Ray Brook DEC Wildlife 518 -897-1291 or 518-897-1326 to report bear disturbances. If you notice a bear peaking in your windows, or seems to be holding court on your property, eyeballing your activities that is not normal. Call the DEC. If you see a bear cross the road, let it be, but if there is a bear on or near your property that seems to be assessing and studying your property, call the DEC and report it.
The DEC keeps track of bears, their habitation, their habituation, and their environment. Whatever you do, don’t feed the bears. It’s against the law to feed bears. You will get ticketed and fined if you are caught feeding the bears. Don’t do it. You are putting your neighbors and the bear’s life at risk. Don’t make soup and leave it under your porch, don’t leave dog food or cat food outside. Use bear proof containers, or electric fences for large dumpsters.
Out west bear proof dumpsters are the norm and all over the place. In the East, the dumpster companies don’t provide bear proof dumpsters because there is no demand. Customers should be demanding Bear Proof Dumpsters because they are very effective, but consumers have to insist on the product for it to be made available on the east coast.
Already this year, 2013, it is extremely dry and the DEC has already had numerous reports of bear problems. Bears are attracted to residential garbage, dumpsters. Food hangs don’t work, don’t feed the dogs and cats outside, the bears will find their food.
No hand feeding or that bear will be in your house demanding food. He’ll break in, and he’ll wreck your house and he may even go to the bathroom in your home. The DEC will euthanize every single one of the hand fed bears. Don’t habituate bears because there is no rehabilitating bears once they are used to human contact.
Last summer the notorious Little Bear died among great controversy in Long Lake. Unfortunately a property owner who simply didn’t know that feeding would result in the bear’s death was feeding Little Bear. The bear feeding was happening because the bear was young, needy and hungry and the human felt bad for the bear. It was an honest mistake that can be corrected by education. The bear had become used to humans. After multiple sightings, the final straw occurred after the bear grabbed an ice cream cone out of a child’s hand at Stewarts. Bears are wild animals. They may be cute, and they may not hunt humans, but bears can and will swat at people if provoked and if they aren’t afraid because they’ve been used to human contact and human food.
Habituated bears will wander near roads and get hit by cars. Folks in the Adirondacks live in bear country so be respectful of the bears and be responsible. They couldn’t stress enough the importance of not leaving food out for the bears. A few years ago, in Old Forge, vehicles killed 19 bears. During hunting season only four bears were taken. Why did cars kill the bears? Because bears had found human food resources and they were living in and near the community and wandering around after dark and no one can see them at night because their fur absorbs all of the light.
How do you stop a bear from become too friendly or curious?
Remove the attraction, make noise, and use bear resistant cans when you hike or at home. The ways of the past has changed. Bears adapt and learn. Rubber buckshot at one time was commonly used to ward off and scare off bears. These days, rubber buckshot doesn’t work . The bears aren’t even scared of it. If they are hungry, they continue to eat their food. The DEC doesn’t move bears anymore because the bears will return and will travel great distances to get home. One bear that was moved out of a populated area was moved 80 miles from its home. It took several weeks, but due to tagging he was traced and returned back to his habitat after traveling 120 miles in the woods.
If you see a bear and it’s a menace call 897-1291 or 897-1326 and report it. Ben or KC will come out and address your bear issues. KC Kelly is the only DEC Encon officer in Northern Hamilton County so he has a lot of ground to cover, but he will respond. He also asked; if you have a neighbor, or see someone attracting bears to your neighborhood, anything unnatural, to call and report it. He just needs the address, not the name, so it takes a community to keep the bears safe.
Humans and bears should ignore each other. Long live the bears.