Home > News > News Item
RI Department of Environmental Management
235 Promenade Street, Providence, RI 02908
(401) 222-2771 TDD/(401) 222-4462
WITH INCREASED BLACK BEAR SIGHTINGS IN THE STATE, DEM OFFERS THE PUBLIC TIPS ON CO-EXISTING WITH BEARS
Over the past week, the Department has received numerous confirmed reports of the presence of a black bear in both the northern and southern areas of the state. In northern Rhode Island, reports of bear sightings were confirmed in Lincoln, Smithfield, North Smithfield, Burrillville, Foster, Glocester, Scituate. Bear sightings have also been confirmed in several southern Rhode Island towns including Exeter, West Greenwich, Richmond and Hopkinton. As black bear populations continue to increase in neighboring states it is likely that the presence of bears in Rhode Island will become a more frequent occurrence.
The Department's environmental police officers and wildlife biologists 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.
Breeding season for black bears in our area occurs during June and July. During this time adult males may travel great distances in search of breeding age females.
Black bears are generally shy and secretive, and usually fearful of humans; however, if they become dependent on backyard food sources they can lose their fear and become a nuisance. 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.
It is important to reduce the attractions that can make a bear 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. In Rhode Island, black bears are protected animals and hunting them is illegal.
Residents in the areas where the bear sightings have been reported are being asked to refrain from letting their dogs run free so that the dogs will not harass the bear. Bears are afraid of dogs, but if a bear is followed or confronted by a dog it may react and put itself in danger. Bears do not pose a threat to dogs.
In Rhode Island, as elsewhere, the tips on co-existing with bears are the same:
Adult female black bears weigh between 110 and 150 pounds, while adult 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. A single wandering bear can be responsible for numerous sightings.
DEM's Division of Law Enforcement has produced a brochure with helpful tips on how to live with bears and discourage them from becoming nuisance animals. The brochure is available online on DEM's website, www.dem.ri.gov, by clicking on "Topics" from the homepage, then "Wildlife", then "Bears". Reports of bear sightings can be directed to DEM Division of Law Enforcement at 222-3070.