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News Release
RI Department of Environmental Management
235 Promenade St., Providence, RI 02908
(401) 222-2771 TDD/(401) 222-4462

For Release:

October 18, 2000


Sally Spadaro 222-4700 ext. 2426
Stephanie Powell 222-4700 ext. 4418


PROVIDENCE ĖIncreased bear sightings in Rhode Island have prompted the Department of Environmental Managementís Division of Enforcement to produce a brochure with helpful tips on how to live with bears and discourage them from becoming nuisance animals.

DEM is now receiving several calls a day from people who have sighted bears; some of the bears have been in yards or porches of residentsí homes. This compares to 10 or 12 calls a year for the past few years. Department staff believe that there are now up to six bears in Rhode Island, including the northern, southern, and middle portions of the state.

The Departmentís environmental police officers are working closely with local police to keep track of bear sightings and complaints, and are educating people in the area of sightings to co-exist with bears. In Rhode Island, as in other states, bear activity seems to increase in October and November as bears prepare to den up for the winter.

"The mere presence of a bear does not warrant its removal," says Steven Hall, Chief of DEMís Division of Enforcement. "We are encouraging people not to feed the bears. Bears that are fed associate people and homes with food and could become problem bears."

Black bears have made a dramatic comeback in the Northeast, from New Hampshire and Massachusetts to Connecticut and New Jersey. While black bears are generally shy and secretive, and usually fearful of humans, they can lose their fear and become a nuisance if they become dependent on backyard food sources. Intelligent and adaptable, they learn quickly and adjust to the presence of humans. They have a keen sense of smell, and will investigate food odors. They are opportunists, and it is this feeding behavior that attracts them to residential areas. The attractions include garbage, birdseed and suet, fruit, compost piles, outdoor pet dishes, and grease on barbecue grills. Once a bear finds an accessible food source, it may routinely return to the same site or similar sites to feed.

Since relocation of black bears is not an option - they will continue their nuisance behavior elsewhere - it is important to reduce the attractions that can make them a nuisance. Without the food attractions, and left alone, a curious bear will usually wander back into more secluded areas. If you see a bear on your property, you can either leave it alone and wait for it to leave, or make loud noises from a safe distance, and wave your arms, to scare it away. If you surprise a bear at close range, walk away slowly while facing the bear, but avoid eye contact which it might perceive as a threat. It is the policy of DEM to leave bears alone, unless they are posing a threat. In Rhode Island, black bears are protected animals and hunting them is illegal. They can be shot only when they present a direct threat to humans or domestic animals.

Tips on discouraging bears from residential areas include:

  • Take down bird feeders from April to November. Natural food sources for birds are plentiful at that time of year. If you must feed birds, hang feeders at least ten feet high and away from trees, being mindful that bears can tip over some bird feeder poles.
  • Do not feed pets outside, or, if you do, take pet food dishes inside at night.
  • Store garbage in sheds and garages, away from doors. Double bagging and the use of ammonia will reduce odors that attract bears.
  • Garbage for pickup should be put outside the morning of collection, not the night before.
  • Keep barbecue grills clean of grease.
  • Do not put meat or sweet food scraps in your compost pile.

Agricultural tips to discourage bears include:

  • Use electric fencing around livestock or move livestock into barns at night.
  • Use electric fencing around beehives or wire them together with metal strapping.
  • Leave unplanted open lanes between forest and fields.
  • Alternate row crops to provide less cover.
  • Secure feeds in a shed or barn.

Black bears are generally solitary creatures. In the East, they are found from New England south through the Appalachians to northern Georgia. Black bear habitat is forestland, generally with both deciduous and coniferous trees, along with streams, swamps and rock ledges. Bears are typically nocturnal, but may be active during the day. They have poor eyesight, fair hearing, and a keen sense of smell. They are omnivorous and eat grasses, leaves, fruit, nuts and berries. Occasionally they will prey on small mammals, rarely deer and livestock. They will also eat insects, particularly ants and bees, and scavenge carrion.

Female black bears weigh between 110 and 150 pounds, while males typically weigh between 200 and 250 pounds. Adults are five to six feet long. Good tree climbers and swimmers, they can also run up to 35 miles per hour. Females will defend their cubs, so it is important to keep away from them and never get between a female and her cubs. Females with cubs generally range between six to 19 square miles, while males range between 12 and 60 square miles. During breeding season, usually late June and early July, males travel extensively in search of females.

For a free copy of the brochure, call DEMís Division of Enforcement at 222-2284. The brochure will also be available shortly on DEMís website at



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