HomeOutdoorsNewsAmerican Bears are Awake, Active, and Rousing Residents

American Bears are Awake, Active, and Rousing Residents

by Jon D. B.
A Black Bear grazing in Yellowstone National Park. (Photo by: Inger Vandyke /VW PICS/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

Live in bear country and have unsecured trash, pet food, or birdfeeders outside? Prepare for a visit from you local American bears.

Although that sounds like a dream come true for many of us bear-obsessed Americans, wild bruins aren’t in it for friendship, I am sad to report. They’re 100% in it for the food.

As spring rolls on, these magnificent mammals are all wrapping up their slumbers. From brown to black bears, their hibernation-like torpor, or sleep stage, is giving way to the search for food, food, and more food. And as they do, we humans happen to provide them with a number of easy targets.

Those targets aren’t us, thankfully. Rather, bears are after our trash, pet food, birdseed, gardens, and anything else edible. Habituated bears, especially, know where to source easy meals. So it’s up to us to A.) Keep our property from being damaged and B.) Keep ourselves and our wild bears safe.

Here, There be Bears

Now that the bears are awake, wildlife agencies are gearing up for the usual springtime calls. They began ramping up in March here in Tennessee, but in colder places like Montana, it’s just beginning. As the latter’s Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP) shares, they’ve started receiving those familiar phone calls in the last couple of weeks.

“Bears become more active in April and May, and now is a good time for residents to assess their property and remove any unsecured food attractants,” offers FWP regional wildlife conflict specialist Justine Vallieres.

And “the best way to avoid having a bear on your property,” Vallieres emphasizes, “is to secure or remove attractants.”

Montana has it particularly hard when it comes to being BearWise, too, as they’re one of the few states with blossoming black and grizzly bear populations (nevermind Alaska, which holds bountiful populations of both and polar bears). But not matter where you live in bear country, or which bears you’re contenting with, there are several imperative steps we must take to keep our bears wild – and all of us safe.

Tips For Thriving in American Bear Country

The alternative to being BearWise, of course, is a bear that’s unafraid of humans and fully willing to rummage through our stuff. This creates a danger to both us and the bear that is becoming all-too-common. And while bear attacks remain rare across America, it is the bears themselves that pay the price. “Troublesome” bears are often euthanized to prevent public harm.

If you’re in bear country, too, here are a few basic tips from MFWP to get you started:

  • Carry bear spray and know how to use it
    • Bear spray is a highly effective, non-lethal bear deterrent
  • Never feed wildlife, especially bears
    • Bears that become food conditioned lose their natural foraging behavior and pose a threat to human safety
    • Secure garbage or food in a certified bear-resistant container
    • (it is illegal to feed bears)
  • Know your bears!
    • It is important to know the difference between grizzly bears and black bears, whether you are hunting or hiking.
  • Never intentionally get close to a bear
    • Always keep a safe distance from wildlife
  • Loud noise, such as banging pots and pans, using an air horn or your car alarm, or shouting, is a simple, effective short-term way to deter a bear on private property
  • Properly constructed electrified fences are both safe for people, livestock and pets, and are proven effective at deterring bears from human-related resources such as beehives, garbage or small livestock

For more on how to distinguish black bears from brown bears, see our breakdown next.

Then, be sure to read up on Being BearWise right here.