PROVIDENCE - The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) reminds residents to remove any backyard food sources that may attract black bears as they emerge from hibernation in search of food.
Residents - particularly those in rural areas of Providence, Kent and Washington counties - are advised to be aware of black bears that may visit bird feeders, beehives, chicken coops, rabbit hutches, and compost piles in early spring given the scarcity of natural foods. As bear populations continue to grow, sightings are becoming increasingly common. In the last week, DEM has received confirmed reports of black bears in areas of Glocester.
The following precautions should be taken:
• Take down bird feeders from April - early November. • Refrain from feeding pets outside, and if you do, take pet food dishes inside at night. • Store garbage in sheds and/or garages. • Take garbage out for pickup on the morning of collection - not the night before. • Keep barbecue grills clean of grease. • Do not put meat or sweet food scraps in your compost pile.
The following steps will discourage bears from causing damage in agricultural areas:
• Use electric fencing around livestock or move livestock into barns at night. • Use electric fencing around beehives or wire them together with metal strapping. • Leave unplanted open lanes between forest and fields. • Alternate row crops to provide less cover.
Black bears are generally shy and will avoid interactions with humans. However, they can become dependent on backyard food sources, if readily available, and quickly become a nuisance. Black bears have an excellent sense of smell and will investigate odors they identify as an easy meal. Once they find an accessible food source, they're likely to return to the same site to feed. For more bear facts, visit DEM's website.
People are urged to practice the following safety tips if they encounter a bear on their property:
• Do not panic; bears are rarely aggressive towards people and will often leave on their own. After the bear leaves the area, food sources or any other item of attraction should be removed from the yard. • Do not run away if you surprise a bear. Walk away slowly while facing the bear. In Rhode Island, black bears are protected animals; intentionally feeding or shooting a bear is illegal.
DEM asks residents to report bear sightings or activity to its Division of Law Enforcement at 222-3070. DEM is working closely with local police to track bear sightings and complaints and educate people on how to safely coexist with bears.
For more information about DEM programs, visit www.dem.ri.gov. Follow DEM on Twitter (@RhodeIslandDEM) or Facebook at www.facebook.com/RhodeIslandDEM for more information on wildlife in Rhode Island as well as other timely updates.