MSPCA-Angell: Avoid Conflicts with Black Bears Emerging from Hibernation

March 25, 2013

BOSTON, March 25, 2013 – It’s springtime in Massachusetts and that means black bears will soon emerge from their winter sleep to forage for food, increasing the likelihood that they will come into contact with people.  Today the MSPCA-Angell issued a call for humans to be both respectful and cautious as bears begin to wake and search for birdseed and other high-calorie, readily available food.

Black bears have historically shied away from people but, because wild foods are scarce in the early spring, newly awakened and hungry bears may raid bird feeders, compost piles, bee hives, trash cans and other sources of food.   Accelerated habitat loss only increases the likelihood of human-wildlife confrontations.  According to a 2009 report from the Massachusetts Audubon Society, the state is losing 22 acres of land per day to development, and 55 percent of wildlife habitat is still unprotected, forcing wild animals to live in human-dominated areas where their natural food sources may be replaced with gardens and yards.

The odds of an encounter are higher when bears first emerge from hibernation and wander into human-inhabited property in search of food.  The MSPCA-Angell has issued the following guidelines to prevent run-ins with bears:

  • Eliminate all food sources from yards to avoid attracting wildlife.  Remember that bird feeders/suet, compost piles, garbage, pet food and the drippings from barbecue grills all appeal to hungry bears
  • Limit bear access to beehives, orchards and farms by using heavy gauge fencing.  People living in densely wooded areas—or areas known to have high concentrations of bears—should consider electrified and/or barbed wire fencing
  • Install motion light sensors which can startle and deter bears from wandering onto property

In the event of an unexpected encounter with a black bear, the MSPCA recommends the following:

  • Remain calm and never approach or purposely feed the bear
  • Wave your arms to appear as big as possible
  • Make noise by banging on objects or by shouting; never initiate a bear’s growl or make other animal noises
  • In the unlikely event of a “bluff charge,” experts advise standing still as this tactic is usually employed by bears just prior to wandering off
    • In the unusual event that you are attacked by a black bear experts recommend aggressively fighting back to deter the bear

For more information on how to safely and humanely co-existing with black bears and other wildlife readers can visit www.livingwithwildlife.org. 

###

The MSPCA-Angell is a national and international leader in animal protection and veterinary medicine and provides direct hands-on care for thousands of animals each year. Founded in 1868, it is the second-oldest humane society in the United States. Services include animal protection and adoption, advocacy, humane education, law enforcement, and world-class veterinary care. The MSPCA-Angell is a private, non-profit organization. It does not receive any government funding nor is it funded or operated by any national humane organization. The MSPCA-Angell relies solely on the support and contributions of individuals who care about animals. Please visit www.mspca.org.