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Bear encounters in Wisconsin increase during the summer, here's tips you can use if you cross one

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Posted at 6:41 PM, Jun 17, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-23 11:01:25-04

Recently there have been several black bear sightings across the state. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) wants to remind the public to take precautions to avoid potential danger this summer.

Black bears are most common in the northern half of the state, but populations have been slowly expanding south over the last decade, according to the DNR.

Wisconsin natives are encouraged to take the same bear precautions no matter what part of the state you're in. Bear sightings in southern Wisconsin are rare, but the sightings of bears in Waukesha and Washington counties this summer are a reminder that bears can be found in any county, according to a news release from the DNR.

Young bears usually head out on their own for the first time during the summer, which could potentially lead to an increase in sightings. Bear breeding season also occurs in the early summer resulting in many male bears wandering around in search of a mate, the DNR says.

According to the DNR, if a bear is near your home or cabin:

  • From a safe location, 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.
  • When scaring a bear away, make sure it has a clear escape route; never corner a bear.
  • If you encounter a bear while in the woods, DO NOT RUN, stay calm and do not approach the bear.
  • Never approach any bear.
  • For your safety, do not attempt to break up a fight between your pet and a bear.

Black bears are naturally cautious animals that normally avoid with people for their safety, but conflicts between people and bears can still arise, according to the DNR. Bears can also quickly learn to associate humans with food when food sources become available. If a bear finds food, such as a bird feed or garbage near your home or cabin, it's a good chance the bear will likely return for more. Bear visits are likely to stop when a food source is no longer available. The DNR says bears will still periodically check sites where food was once available, so it could take up to several days to weeks after a good source has been removed for a bear to completely stop visiting the food site.

According to the DNR, 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.
  • Keep grills and picnic tables clean.

The department partners with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services Program to respond to about 800 bear-related complaints reported in Wisconsin each year.

If unable to resolve a conflict with a bear, contact the USDA Wildlife Services toll-free line at 1-800-433-0663 for properties in Southern Wisconsin and 1-800-228-1368 for properties in Northern Wisconsin. Most complaints are resolved through technical advice.

For more information regarding bears and safety visit here.

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