Fish and Wildlife gives safety tips about bear encounters
Published 11:50 am Thursday, June 29, 2023
As the summer season begins, wildlife officials are advising Kentuckians about possible black bear sightings.
The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife says that sightings of black bears are common across the state. Encounters with the animals are possible, too, especially in early summer.
Recent sightings have been reported in eastern, southeastern and south central Kentucky, the department said in a press release.
Bears may be spotted in places like rural farms, residential areas, and occasionally in a town or city as “young males disperse from their primary range in eastern Kentucky to establish new home ranges for themselves and search for mates,” the department said.
John Hast, wildlife biologist and bear specialist with Kentucky Fish and Wildlife, said in a statement that young male black bears can go to a more populated area unintentionally.
“They are on their own for the first time and just discovering humans,” Hast said. “They are generally wary of people and will keep moving to exit a populated area on their own, usually at night when humans are less active.”
Young male bears are pushed out of areas where they were raised by older, dominant males. In a day, bears can travel 20 miles or more if undisturbed. The department said the bears “may wander up to several weeks or more into unfamiliar territory” looking for a suitable habitat and mates before returning to a mountainous area. Eastern Kentucky and the Ozarks region of Missouri have burgeoning bear populations.
Hast said that if bears are afraid of an unfamiliar sight, sound or location, they may “easily get lost and wander further into a town or city instead of away.” If people see a bear, they should not engage with it and remove potential food sources. That can encourage bears to keep moving.
Adverse encounters are extremely rare. Black bears have a natural fear of people and dogs.
“Kentucky Fish and Wildlife advises the public to never approach or feed a bear, which can result in a negative encounter,” the press release said. “If you ever encounter a bear, keep a safe distance and never approach it. If you feel a bear is posing an immediate danger, call local law enforcement immediately.”
If a bear is spotted near your home, secure your garbage in a garage or other building, do not leave pet food outside and clean and securely store barbecue grills. This can also be applicable to prevent wildlife problems in general. Additionally, do not feed birds in bear range or near where a bear has been spotted recently.
Intentionally feeding bears violates Kentucky law. Hunting bears is also regulated in the state and is limited to defined seasons within established bear zones in the eastern part of the state to sustain the animals’ population.