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Local News

January 26, 2011

DEC bans feeding of bears

In response to a growing number of human-bear conflicts in recent years, the DEC has banned the intentional and unintentional feeding of the animals.

The regulations announced Friday forbid feeding black bears regardless of intent. For those who unintentionally provide food to bears through improperly stored garbage or backyard bird feeders, state Department of Environmental Conservation said it would first give a warning. The agency would then have authority to require removal of the attractants when bears become problematic, according to a media release from the DEC.

Beginning about a decade ago, black bears in Region 4 have expanded their range from strongholds in the Catskills. This has occurred to such a degree that the agency has allowed more opportunities for bear hunting in the region.

Beekeeper Clem Murphy of Hamden said bears have definitely been on the rise, and it has not gone unnoticed by fellow beekeepers.

With each hive valued at about $600, and with 12 hives a common number in a group, a bear can easily cause a beekeeper a $6,000 loss, he said.

"I have known beekeepers to quit because of bears," Murphy said.

Murphy said electric fencing around his hive is the only way he can stay in business.

There were 154 reports of nuisance bears in Region 4 last year, DEC Region 4 spokesman Rick Georgeson said.

Region 4 includes Albany, Columbia, Delaware, Greene, Montgomery, Otsego, Rennselaer, Schenectady and Schoharie counties.

Most of the nuisance bears were reported in Delaware and Greene counties, Georgeson said.

Not including those taken by hunters, 19 bears were killed in the region. Of these, six were legally put down by beekeepers, eight were taken through nuisance bear permits, one was killed by local law enforcement and another was shot by the DEC, Georgeson said.

It is uncommon to relocate bears because nuisance bears will retain their behavior in a new location, and bears have also been known to return to their original territory from as far as 100 miles away, he said.

Murphy said he wishes there was something other than a "lead" solution for nuisance bears.

"I know they are a pain in the neck, but I kind of like them," he said.

The bear problem, in some situations, can also be looked at as a case of humans expanding into bear territory, Murphy said.

Under former regulations, bear baiting with food in some situations and locations was allowed.

The DEC suggests the following measures to deter black bears:

"¢ Do not place food outdoors to attract raccoons, birds, squirrels or other wildlife. Bears destroying bird feeders is a common problem. Stop feeding birds when the snow melts in the spring.

"¢ Do not leave garbage where bears can get to it. Dispose of grease, fat, bacon and other meats in sealed containers.

"¢ Clean garbage cans frequently with ammonia or bleach.

"¢ Use plastic bags inside garbage cans to help hide odors.

"¢ Place camphor disks in garbage cans to mask food odors. Other items, including mothballs, air fresheners and ammonia-soaked rags, may also work.

"¢ Store garbage cans in a secure place, such as a garage, rather than on a porch. They can also be hung out of reach.

"¢ Clean refrigerators and other insulated containers left outside.

"¢ Remove grease from gas and charcoal grills after every use.

"¢ Clean barbecue pits and grills thoroughly before leaving them outside.

"¢ Turn off kitchen exhaust fans that vent to the outside.

"¢ Do not feed family pets outside.

"¢ If a bear becomes a problem, leave outdoor lights on or a radio playing all night.

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