Beware the bears, not the Chicago version

We don't often see bears in northeast Wisconsin but if you do, the DNR has sound advice for you.

WOODRUFF - Spring is here and as temperatures warm, homeowners have the opportunity to take precautions against conflicts with black bear.

Black bears are emerging from dens and looking for food. - Photo credit: DNR

Black bears are emerging from dens and looking for food. Photo credit: DNR

"Springtime is when we typically receive the highest number of complaints about bears," said Brad Koele, wildlife damage specialist with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. "Bears are emerging from dens and looking for food, but natural food sources are limited at this time of year."

Black bears normally avoid contact with people, but bears can become emboldened once they learn to associate humans with food.

"Bird feeders, garbage cans, grills and uncontained compost or pet food left outside can be targets for hungry bears," Koele said. "That's why it is important to make these attractants inaccessible to bears."

Intentionally feeding bears is illegal in Wisconsin. It is also important for homeowners to ensure that they do not unintentionally feed bears via an accessible food source near their home.

If a bear finds food such as bird feed or garbage near your home, it will likely return. Visits are more likely to stop when food is no longer available. Bears will periodically check sites where food was once available, so it may take several days to weeks before a bear will stop visiting a site once the food source has been removed.

The " Living with Bears in Wisconsin " document can be found on the DNR website, , by searching keywords " wildlife damage ," and can help landowners learn more about co-existing with bears in Wisconsin.

Homeowners can follow these steps to avoid attracting black bears:

  • Do not knowingly feed a bear;
  • Completely remove bird feeders, even during daytime hours - bears are active during the day and may cause problems even if the feeders are out only during that time;
  • Clean areas where bird feeders were located so that accumulated deposits of spilled seed are removed;
  • Reduce garbage odors by rinsing food cans before putting them in covered recycling containers or garbage cans;
  • Keep meat scraps in the freezer until garbage day, and if possible, keep garbage cans in a closed building until the morning of pick-up;
  • Be sure to lock commercial dumpsters;
  • Keep pet food inside or inaccessible to bears even during daytime hours; and
  • Keep barbeque grills and picnic tables clean.

"If a bear is near your home, wave your arms and make noise to scare it away. Back away slowly and seek a safe location where you can wait for the bear to leave," said Koele. "Make sure it has a clear escape route. Never corner a bear. If you encounter a bear while in the woods, stay calm and do not approach the bear. Never approach a sow with cubs, and do not attempt to break up a fight between your pet and a bear."

The department partners with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Wildlife Services to respond to approximately 800 bear-related complaints reported in Wisconsin each year. Homeowners who are unable to resolve a conflict with a bear should contact USDA Wildlife Services' toll-free line at 1-800-433-0663 for properties in Southern Wisconsin and at 1-800-228-1368 for properties Northern Wisconsin.

For more information regarding bears in Wisconsin, search the DNR website, , for keyword " bear ."