Co-existence with these beautiful omnivores requires respect and conservational balance. Oh, and common sense too. Walking today, I came across bear spore (aka sign of an animal including tracks, scat, hair,etc). This is common on the mountainside where I live on the Western Slope of the Catskills. I was reminded of an article I wrote a few years ago for the now archive-only online news site, Watershed Post. The information is just too in-demand to keep under wraps.
How To Stay Safe in Catskills Bear Country
by Rebecca Andre
Spring in the Catskills is a breathtaking season of roaring waterfalls, eagles taking flight and pastures covered in blooming wildflowers—and, thanks to our resident black bear population, of overturned trash cans, destroyed bird feeders and dented vehicles.
In May, Region 4 of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, which covers a portion of the Catskills, received dozens of complaints about bears, according to Joshua Choquette, a DEC wildlife technician. By May 23, the agency had received 54 complaints about bears from its nine counties, Choquette said.
The majority of the complaints the DEC receives each year are calls from homeowners reporting that their trash or bird feeder is being feasted upon by a local black bear, according to Choquette.
But about 20 percent of the calls each year are of a more serious nature, with a bear causing damage to vehicles, property or agriculture, he said.
A bear’s search for food
Warmer temperatures in the spring bring the black bears emerging hungry from their dens. Choquette said. Immediately, they begin searching for food, which is still scarce at this time of year.
“Their whole behavior is driven by food,” said Choquette.
In an April 22 press release, the DEC issued tips for how bears and humans come into conflict.
“Bears can obtain all of the food they need from the forest, but they are intelligent and opportunistic animals that will find and consume whatever food they can find most easily,” the statement read. “Bird feeders, garbage cans,dumpsters, barbecue grills, unsecured out-buildings or vehicles containing food or waste are all potential attractants to bears. Once a bear learns to obtain food from people or certain structures, it is very difficult to change the animal’s behavior. These bears are more vulnerable to motor vehicle collisions in populated areas, more likely to be illegally killed, or may become a threat to public safety.”
The DEC encourages homeowners to call their regional wildlife conservation office if a foraging bear causes any damage to property.
In the Catskills, call the Schenectady office at 518-357-2450, the Stamford office at 607-652-7369 or the New Paltz office at 845-256-3000. The location and date of nuisance bear reports are all kept on record, and afford the agency an accurate assessment regarding wildlife activity in a particular area.
Greene and Delaware counties, especially the area in and around the town of Middletown in Delaware County, are known for a higher density of black bears, according to Choquette.
Just ask the Ingraham family. They live on Route 30 between the town of Roxbury and the hamlet of Halcottsville in Delaware County, and in May they had already had four encounters with a “brave bear that’s not tiny,” according to Lillian Ingraham.
The bear has left paw prints on the side of their house and has ripped a shed door off a neighbor’s house, Ingraham said.
The family reported the bear’s visits to the DEC, and was issued non-lethal rubber buckshot bullets by an environmental conservation officer, who instructed the family to shoot at the bear’s backside (not its face) if it returns.
They were told that the rubber buckshot is not intended to cause permanent damage, but to condition the bear to associate pain with a certain location, Ingraham said. Although the family’s trash is secured, the bear continues to return, she said.