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Intentionally feeding bears or allowing them to find anything that smells or tastes like food teaches bears to approach homes and people looking for more.

TWRA receives more calls in the spring concerning black bears than any other time of year. Spring is a time of dispersal for young bears and this takes them into new and unknown areas as they search for food, water and shelter. 

Springtime also brings an increase in outdoor activities for humans such as gardening, hiking and grilling. Thus, chances increase for bear sightings and bear-human interactions.  

Living in bear territory can be unnerving for some. Humans can unknowingly attract bears and other wildlife to their yards. Attractants include bird feeders, trash, grills and pet food bowls with leftover food. Following a few guidelines can decrease negative interactions and help bears stay wild. 

Bears accustomed to foods provided by humans pose a greater threat. TWRA biologists and wildlife officers remind Tennesseans of the adage, “a fed bear is a dead bear.”  The smell of grease on a grill, ripe vegetables in a garden, trash and bird feeders not only attract bears, but also provide effortless meals for bears. Once a bear gets this easy meal, it doesn’t forget.  

Dealing with a nuisance bear is a difficult process with many variables. Biologists and wildlife officers consider the number of times a bear has caused an issue, the level of aggressiveness, the location and the nuisance concern itself. The issue is most often human related. “Relocating a conditioned, dangerous bear to another area just moves the problem and this isn’t an option,” shared Region 3 Big Game Biologist, Ben Layton. “Bears will travel impressive distances to return to an area where they easily found food.” 

Layton added, “TWRA’s goal is to help people understand their behavior often causes nuisance issues. If we change these behaviors, everyone is safe.” Following a few recommendations can decrease negative interactions and help bears stay wild. 

 • Never Feed or Approach Bears. Intentionally feeding bears or allowing them to find anything that smells or tastes like food teaches bears to approach homes and people looking for more. Bears will defend themselves if a person gets too close, so don’t risk your safety and theirs! 

Secure Food, Garbage and Recycling. Food and food odors attract bears, so don’t reward them with easily available food, liquids or garbage. 

Remove Bird Feeders. When Bears Are Active Birdseed and grains have lots of calories, so they’re very attractive to bears. Removing feeders is the best way to avoid creating conflicts with bears. 

Never Leave Pet Food Outdoors. Feed pets indoors when possible. If you must feed pets outside, feed in single portions and remove food and bowls after feeding. Store pet food where bears can’t see or smell it. 

Clean & Store Grills. Clean grills after each use and make sure that all grease, fat and food particles are removed. Store clean grills and smokers in a secure area that keeps bears out. 

Alert Neighbors to Bear Activity. See bears in the area or evidence of bear activity? Tell your neighbors and share information on how to avoid bear conflicts. Bears have adapted to living near people; now it’s up to us to adapt to living near bears.

For more information visit bearwise.org and tnwildlife.org.