Secure garbage to protect roaming black bear and your property

July 16, 2021

The black bear that was recently spotted in Pike County has reportedly gotten into garbage there and is likely still roaming around southern Indiana, according to the Indiana Department of Natural Resources.

If trash or recycling containers are easily accessible, the bear could start to associate people’s homes with a place to find food. To protect the bear and personal property, residents of Pike and surrounding counties should secure those and other potential human-generated outdoor food sources.

“Seeking out easily accessible food is normal behavior for many wild animals,” said Brad Westrich, DNR mammologist in a news release. “Unfortunately, bears can become sick or even die when they eat items from our garbage.”

Westrich said that when bears discover food around people’s homes, they can damage personal property trying to get at it and begin to lose their natural fear of humans, which can put both in danger. In these situations, DNR must then implement a technique called aversive conditioning to correct this behavior. Aversive conditioning methods, such as spotlights and airhorns, are stressful for the bear. Once a bear regularly seeks food sources near humans, these techniques can become necessary for the safety of the bear and people. Residents can help DNR avoid needing to use these methods by removing potential food sources.

DNR’s last confirmed report of the bear was in Pike County on July 8; however, bears can travel up to 20 miles a day. For that reason, residents in
Pike and its surrounding counties should:

• Store garbage cans and recycling containers inside a garage or shed.
• Put garbage cans and recycling containers on the curb the morning of pick-up rather than on the night before.
• Avoid putting meats, sweets, bones or grease in compost piles.
• Remove or secure other potential food sources for bears, such as livestock feed or pet food.

If you see a bear, report it to the Indiana Division of Fish & Wildlife.

Biologists use these reports to monitor bear activity and provide recommendations to residents.

Indiana was once home to black bears. Bear populations in neighboring states are expanding, and southern Indiana’s forests and hills are excellent habitat for black bears, so more are likely coming. Hoosiers need to work together now and into the future to protect bears.

Although black bears were once common in Indiana, there hasn’t been a resident population since before the Civil War. Until 2015, there hadn’t been a confirmed report of a black bear in Indiana since 1871.

Unregulated hunting and habitat loss caused black bears to be eliminated from Indiana and much of the Midwest by 1850.

Black bears have recently been entering Indiana from neighboring states, a clear sign that bear populations in those states are increasing and Indiana habitat is attractive to bears.

Black bears are native to Indiana and are listed as a species of special concern. They are protected under Indiana law, which prohibits the taking of a black bear except under certain conditions and by a permit issued only by the Indiana DNR.

Black bears are rarely aggressive toward humans.

If you see a black bear:
• Do not feed it.
• Observe it from a distance.
• Do not climb a tree.
• Advertise your presence by shouting and waving your arms and backing slowly away.

Most problems that occur with bears arise when bears associate food sources with humans and lose their fear of people.

More guidelines for reducing or eliminating the potential for bear-human conflicts:
• Remove bird feeders and bird food if a bear is reported in your area.
• Clean and store away grills after use.
• Eliminate food attractants by placing garbage cans inside a garage or shed.
• Pick ripe fruits and vegetable as soon as possible or place an electric fence around them to ensure bears cannot reach them.
• Consolidate beehives you may have and place an electric fence around them.
• Don't leave pet food outside overnight.
• Don't add meat or sweets to a compost pile.
• Don't climb a tree if you encounter a bear; wait in a vehicle or building for the bear to leave the area.

Secure garbage to protect roaming black bear and your property