As reported by many media sources over the past several days, mature black bears have been sighted in the Fond du Lac and Washington Counties, WI over the Memorial Day Weekend. Although the black bear is more abundant in the northern regions of Wisconsin, each year they are being sighted more and more in the central and southern regions of the state as they continue to expand their habitat region.
Black bears feed mainly on vegetation, seeds, berries, bugs, and fish. Although they are mainly omnivorous, they will occasionally eat other meats, small mammals, livestock, and, yes, beehives. It is after the long winter hibernation when their food sources are minimal that they can be sighted closer to human habitats looking for anything to satisfy their hunger. They will frequent campsites, garbage cans and bird feeders.
Black bears tend to be shy and are most active at the dusk hours. They will be more active at any hour of the day and night after the winter hibernation. It is this time of the year that ‘new sightings’ are reported from areas where they more than likely have been living in but not seen …doing no harm to humans. They will normally move on away from human habitats once they know that humans are in the area.
There are some precautions you can take to help reduce any risk of injury from these shy wonders of nature if you happen to have one in your area.
• Hang bird feeders at least 10 feet in the air, away from trees or on a tree branch that won’t support a bear’s weight.
• During the spring months, bring feeders in at night.
• Be sure your garbage cans are closed tightly and move them inside a garage area if at all possible.
• Bring pet food in for the night hours (and small pets in case your neighborhood bear decides they are extremely hungry).
• When camping, keep your campsites clean of food out in the open, dispose of trash in a dumpster (not in the fire pit), and keep food in a tight container, preferably locked up in a vehicle at night (not in your tent).
If you happen to cross a bear’s path:
• If you are at a close range, back away slowly.
• Go into a nearby building or vehicle until the bear wanders away. They will normally go the other direction once they know a human is in the area.
• Make noise and wave your arms to let the bear know that you are there. It is when you startle them, surprising and scaring them that they will get defensive (as you would if you were startled by a burglar, thief, stranger.)
Respect them. They have a right to live here also. It is possible to co-habitat with these shy wonders of nature.