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Feeding bears creates problems and may get you a ticket

People have turned 75-pound yearling bear into a nuisance by feeding it

Harlan, KY (May 16, 2005) -- Last year, visitors to Kingdom Come State Park in HarlanCounty thrilled to the sight of a female black bear and her five cubswandering through the picnic grounds. Visitors quickly learned that theycould attract bears into the open for photographs by leaving food on picnictables and throwing boxes of doughnuts in unsecured garbage cans.

One of the cubs learned its lesson too well. This year, as a 75-poundyearling, it became a nuisance - especially after people started throwingfood to it.

"He got brave and started approaching people while they were eating apicnic," said Wes Hodges, wildlife biologist for the Kentucky Department ofFish and Wildlife Resources (KDFWR). "The people would run, then the bearwould sit down and eat. He wasn't being aggressive, but he was starting tolearn that he could bluff people away from their picnic."

Last month, Hodges had to trap the delinquent juvenile and move it to aremote wildlife management area miles away from its home- all because peopleignored warnings not to feed the bears.

"I kind of feel sorry for it," said KDFWR Wildlife Biologist BeckyLittleton. "It will survive, but it doesn't know the hazards of its newarea, such as how busy the roads are ... it's learned people mean food, andit could become a problem to someone else."

The cub turned problem bear illustrates why people should not feed theseanimals, no matter how cute or hungry they appear. There's plenty of food inthe woods for bears to eat.

It's time of year for bear sightings to accelerate

This is the time of year when bear sightings accelerate. Mother bears areemerging from their dens with the small cubs that were born in January,while bears with larger yearlings born last year begin chasing off theiroffspring to prepare for breeding season. This means there are more bears inthe woods learning how to forage for food.

"Basically, the mother teaches her cubs what to eat, whether it's naturalfood or raiding garbage cans," Littleton said. "If garbage is not available,they'll learn to eat natural food, such as plants, grubs and berries."

In the case of the Kingdom Come Park bears, the mother taught her five cubshow to raid garbage and go to picnic tables for food.

Yearling bears are also on their own for the first time and looking for aneasy meal. "We've already had several bear complaints this year," Hodgessaid. "And it's the yearlings that are getting into trouble."

Residents can avoid problems with bears by eliminating the food that drawsthem. Not creating a problem bear in the first place is a much bettersolution moving a bear that's already become a nuisance.

Simple fixes include leaving garbage inside the house or sturdy outbuildinguntil pick-up day. Pet food should be left out for only 30 minutes at atime, and never left outside overnight. Sweet feed and other food for horsesshould be stored in a secure location. Hang birdfeeders high, or remove themfor a few weeks if they're attracting bears. Beekeepers should place hivesin the open, away from the tree line, and consider encircling them with anelectric cattle fence. Finally, keep outdoor grills clean.

Bears are not naturally aggressive, but take car

Bears are normally not aggressive toward humans. They can be chased away bybanging pots together or making loud noises and waving your arms. If you seea bear in your yard and are afraid of it, stay inside and watch it until itleaves.

Most of Kentucky's black bears are found in Harlan, Letcher and Pikecounties. Young male bears, however, may wander great distances in search ofnew territory. A black bear has even been spotted in Northern Kentucky.

The number of black bears in Kentucky is still unknown. Once native to thestate, bears are returning to Kentucky on their own due to improved habitatconditions and a spreading population from bordering states. In Kentucky,feeding bears accidentally or on purpose for any reason is against the law.KDFWR law enforcement officers are serious about this issue, and those whoare chumming out table scraps to keep bears around to watch may find they'llbe getting a look at a citation rather than a large, furry animal.

Residents encountering problems with black bears may call the KDFWR at1-800-858-1549 for more information about solutions.

Story courtesy Kentucky Department of Fish & Wildlife
Contact: Dave Baker
(800) 852-0942.347 ~

The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources (KDFWR) manages,regulates, enforces and promotes responsible use of all fish and wildlifespecies, their habitats, public wildlife areas and waterways for the benefitof those resources and for public enjoyment. KDFWR, an agency of theCommerce Cabinet, has an economic impact to the state of $4.8 billionannually. For more information on KDFWR, visit our web site at

This story was posted on 2005-05-21 11:31:33
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