coexist_bears

Do not feed bears

Keep the wild in wildlife. Never deliberately feed bears to attract them to your property. Bears which become accustomed to humans and dependent on human-associated foods are likely to cause property damage and become a nuisance. The bear is then placed in jeopardy if you or your neighbors become afraid of it or seek to protect their property. Some towns may have municipal bylaws which prohibit the feeding of certain wildlife.

Remove or secure all food sources

  • Don't tempt bears by providing foods within easy reach. Take down bird feeders-especially those containing suet or sunflower seed-by April 1 and don't replace them until December 1. Birds will be fine without supplemental feeding once spring arrives.
  • Clean up spilled seed. Although some feeders can be "bear-proofed", bears will still be attracted by scent or by spilled seed. You can attract birds for your enjoyment by planting a flower garden, providing a dusting site, and maintaining nesting boxes and a bird bath.
  • Be sure that all pet foods are consumed at a single feeding and not left in the dish. Do not leave pet food or dirty dishes outside at night.
  • Store all garbage in closed containers in a secure garage or inside location. Small amounts of garbage may be frozen and then placed in trash cans just before pickup. Bears may still be attracted by the smell even if they can't get to the garbage. Double bags or sprinkling with ammonia will help reduce odors. Your town's solid waste committee or neighborhood coalition may want to discuss waste management with your waste disposal contractor and require bear-proofing as a condition of the contract.
  • Do not leave your garbage cans outside overnight. Put them by the roadside just before pickup. Dogs, coyotes, raccoons, and other animals will tip over and scatter garbage, as well as bears. Wash and rinse cans regularly. Clean greasy barbecues and picnic grills after using them. Do not leave food scraps or spilled grease in your yard.
  • Do not place meat scraps, fruit remnants, or sweet materials in your compost pile. Bears will be attracted to these items.

Camping in bear country

  • Don't cook, eat, or store food in your tent, camp trailer, or lean-to. Avoid cooking next to your tent or trailer where odors may linger.
  • Do not dispose of food scraps, grease, or other edibles in your campfire. These materials may not be completely burned, or the scent of burned food may attract bears.
  • Store food only in bear-proof containers or hung high on sturdy poles or on wires strung between 2 trees. Don't deliberately feed bears or leave food items or picnic coolers out when away from the campsite.
  • Be careful if storing food in your vehicle. Some bears may be able to break a window, tear open convertible tops, or otherwise gain entry. Even if unsuccessful, the bear's attempts may scratch or otherwise damage your vehicle.

Protect your bees

  • Use temporary or permanent electric fences to safeguard your hives. Be sure to keep weeds from shorting out the fence. Regularly maintain the chargers or batteries. Do not place fences next to trees which the bears can climb and then jump down inside the fence.
  • Keep open, mowed areas on all sides around the hives. Do not locate hives in abandoned areas or close to wooded overgrown areas where bears have pathways to the hives.
  • Do not place supplemental foods nearby as a distraction. This will attract or habituate bears and will be counterproductive.

Protect your row crops and orchards

  • Temporary electric fencing may be used to protect corn and other crops. Be sure to maintain the fencing and chargers or batteries. Place bacon strips on the fence to enhance shocking ability when bears contact the fence. Seven-strand slanted non-electric fences have been used to keep bears out of orchards.
  • Noisemakers, such as propane cannons, may be effective in some circumstances, but the bears may become used to them or simply move to another field.
  • Keep open, mowed areas on all sides around the crops. When possible, cut back the vegetation on wooded overgrown gullies where bears have pathways to the hives.
  • Alternate corn with other row crops to provide less food and cover.
  • Contact local bear hunters to utilize the early September bear season to hunt in your fields during bear season.

In some instances, houndsmen may be given a permit to use bear hounds to chase bears away from crops they are damaging. However, the relief may be temporary.

Protect your livestock

Avoid pasturing animals in remote areas, areas with nearby heavy wooded cover, or areas with wooded gullies or other pathways which bears may use.

  • Do not leave carcasses of dead animals exposed in fields, pastures or nearby areas. Bury them deeply or incinerate them.
  • When possible, pen the livestock in or near the barn at night, especially pregnant females or those with small young. Avoid field birthing if possible, or, clean areas to remove afterbirths.
  • Do not place supplemental foods nearby as a distraction. This will attract or habituate bears and will be counterproductive.
  • Consider the use of guard animals if you have a large or valuable livestock operation.

Protect yourself

  • Do not approach bears in the wild. Bears will usually flee from people and move away silently. If you approach from downwind, a bear may not immediately recognize you as a human and may be curious until it scents you. Make the animal aware of you by clapping, talking, or making other sounds.
  • Do not intrude between a female bear and her cubs. Black bears almost never attack in defense of cubs, but your continued presence may be stressful to the animal. Don't assume that unaccompanied cubs are abandoned and handle or capture them. The mother is likely to be nearby and will return for them.
  • Unless absolutely necessary, do not throw food items, packs, or other items to decoy bears which may approach you. This action teaches the bear how to get people to give food items to it.
  • Black bears will sometimes "bluff-charge" people when they are attempting to protect or raid a food source, when cornered or threatened, or when courting or mating. Do not run or crouch down but stand your ground and then move slowly away.
  • Different strategies may prevail if you are hiking, camping, or working in remote areas outside Massachusetts. Predatory attacks by black bears are very rare but have occurred in Alaska, Canada, and rarely elsewhere. Read Stephen Herrero's book "Bear Attacks: Their Causes and Avoidance" (Rev. ed., 2002, Lyons Press)

Keep dogs under control

Different strategies may prevail if you are hiking, camping, or working in remote areas outside Massachusetts. Predatory attacks by black bears are very rare but have occurred in Alaska, Canada, and rarely elsewhere. Read Stephen Herrero's book Bear Attacks: Their Causes and Avoidance (Rev. ed., 2002, Lyons Press) to understand bear behavior and how to protect yourself in these situations.

Recommended

Frequently Asked Questions on black bear problems and control.

Coexisting with Black Bears pdf format of Coexisting with Black Bears
Find guidelines for the prevention and management of bear damage.

For additional information and advice on black bear management, problems, and damage control strategies in Massachusetts, contact your local MassWildlife District office.