DEC issues guidance to avoid conflicts with bears

The DEC is advising New Yorkers to take down bird feeders and secure outdoor trash cans to avoid confrontations with bears. Courtesy of Pexels

ALBANY — The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) reminded New Yorkers to take down bird feeders and secure garbage to avoid potential conflicts with black bears.

Bears are emerging from their dens, and now is the time to take steps to reduce potential conflicts through the spring and summer.

Bird feeders, unsecured garbage and outdoor pet and livestock feed can attract bears and lead to potential conflicts for homeowners. Repeated access to bird feeders and garbage can make bears bolder, seeking additional sources of human-related foods inside vehicles or buildings, particularly when natural foods are scarce.

Conflicts are often associated with activities not intended to attract bears, such as feeding birds, improperly storing garbage and leaving messy grills and pet food outdoors.

Bears are opportunistic feeders and will remember where they find easy food, then return to that location frequently. Intentional feeding of bears or repeated access to human foods without negative consequence can lead bears to become habituated (lose their fear of humans) and to become food-conditioned (actively seek out human foods).

Habituated and food-conditioned bears may become bolder in their efforts, the longer they are successfully able to access human foods. They will eventually become involved in human-bear conflicts. Food-conditioned bears are significantly more likely to be hit by cars or shot illegally by people who mistakenly perceive a threat to their own safety.

Feeding bears intentionally is illegal. Unintentional feeding through bird feeders and unsecured garbage also has consequences for communities and may ultimately be deadly for the bear if the bear becomes a greater threat to people and property after exposure to these sources of food.

It is important to properly manage attractants to avoid human-bear conflicts.

DEC advises everyone residing in or visiting bear country (most of upstate New York) to remove any attractants. People should take down birdfeeders and clean up any remaining bird seed now, begin storing garbage inside secure buildings until the morning of collection, and feed pets indoors.

By taking these simple steps, New Yorkers can help ensure bears will find food naturally, which protects people, property, and bears. For more information, please visit DEC’s website at

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