Local wildlife expert explains early bear sightings

ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — With the first day of spring fast approaching, signs of wildlife are emerging across the Capital Region. While some animals may be a welcoming sight to many, there’s one in particular that could pose a risk to humans, especially at this time of year.

Bears will typically emerge from their winter slumber after spring begins, however, there have already been sightings reported even in Albany County. Although some may believe that early sightings correlate with warmer temperatures, Department of Environmental Conservation Region 4 Wildlife Manager Michael Clark says that is not the case.

Bears will slumber through the winter months, burning through fat reserves stored in the summer and autumn. Clark says food availability in the fall impacts the length of the slumber.

“Bears will stay out as long as they can forage and find food,” said Clark. “Typically, snow and colder temperatures prevent that. When they begin to slumber comes down to how many calories they are gaining versus the amount of calories they are burning.”

Clark says there was plenty of food last fall, including acorns, beech nuts, and apples. “Bears should have very good fat reserves this year. When they do, they will usually emerge in late March or early April.”

How does that explain the early sightings? Simply put, the bears that are emerging now did not eat enough. “Younger bears may not have put on a sufficient amount of fat or were not nourished well,” said Clark. “Other bears you see may be in a compromised state. For example, they could have been injured.”

Clark says that bears that come out too early might be drawn to human food sources due to a lack of natural food sources. “Bears are usually herbivores in the spring, feeding on leaves, grass, cat tails, and skunk cabbages. They are opportunistic, so they will go after food where it is available. When bears associate food with humans, it could be detrimental.”

The Department of Environmental Conservation reminds New Yorkers that it is illegal to intentionally feed bears. According to the BearWise educational campaign, two ways New Yorkers can reduce human-bear conflicts is to secure food, garbage, and recycling and remove bird feeders when bears are active.

New Yorkers should store garbage in bear-resistant containers or indoors. Garbage should be taken to a disposal site regularly to avoid odor build-up. If using a garbage pickup service, it is advised to place cans on the curb that morning and not the night before.

In cases where a bear is causing property damage, entering homes or buildings, is in an urban/suburban area, and cannot escape, contact your regional DEC wildlife office for guidance/assistance.

Powered by News Channel 9.

Related Articles

Back to top button