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Bear sightings – what to know

Posted on July 21, 2023

There have been multiple reports of increased Bear sightings in the city. I want to offer some important information for the public to know.

From the Holyoke Board of Health

Black bears in Massachusetts can pose certain risks to public safety, particularly when they come into close proximity to human-populated areas. While black bears are native to Massachusetts, their populations have been increasing over the years, and encounters with humans have become more common.

One of the potential attractions for black bears in residential areas is bird feeders. Bird feeders often contain a concentrated source of food that can lure bears into neighborhoods. When bears become accustomed to finding food near human habitation, they may lose their natural fear of humans and can become more bold and potentially aggressive. This poses risks not only to public safety but also to the bears themselves, as conflicts with humans often result in negative outcomes for the animals.

To address this issue, the Massachusetts Environmental Police and other wildlife management agencies in the state recommend taking precautions to avoid attracting bears to residential areas. Some of these measures include:

  • Removing bird feeders: Taking down bird feeders, especially during the times when bears are most active, such as in the spring and summer, can help prevent bears from being drawn into neighborhoods. Bears have excellent sense of smell and can detect food sources from a  considerable distance.
  • Securing trash and other food sources: Properly securing garbage cans and dumpsters, as well as storing pet food and other potential food sources indoors, can help reduce the likelihood of attracting bears.
  • Eliminating other attractants: Bears are opportunistic feeders and can be enticed by other attractants, such as barbecue grills, compost piles, and fruit trees. It is advisable to minimize or eliminate these attractants in areas where bears are present.
  • Educating the community: Raising awareness about black bears and their behavior can help residents understand the risks associated with attracting them and encourage responsible practices to minimize human-bear conflicts.

In situations where black bears are frequent visitors to residential areas or pose an immediate threat to public safety, local authorities may implement additional measures, such as bear trapping and relocation or, in extreme cases, euthanization. However, these actions are typically considered a last resort and are only used when all other non-lethal methods have been exhausted.

It’s important to note that wildlife management practices can vary by location and may be subject to change based on evolving research and local policies. For the most accurate and up-to-date information regarding black bears and public safety in Massachusetts, it is recommended to consult the Massachusetts Environmental Police or the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife.

Resources and additional information:

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