The black bear that has been seen in Pike County has gotten into garbage there and is likely still roaming around southern Indiana.

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. “Unfortunately, bears can become sick or even die when they eat items from our garbage.”

Westrich says 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.

Other potential food sources such as beehives, grills, and vegetable gardens can also attract bears. Securing them is quick and easy. Tips are at wildlife.IN.gov/wildlife-resources/animals/black-bear.

If you see a bear, report it to the DNR at on.IN.gov/largemammal. Biologists use these reports to monitor bear activity and provide recommendations to local 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. For tips on coexisting with bears, visit bearwise.org/six-bearwise-basics/food-garbage/.

To view more DNR news releases, please see dnr.IN.gov.

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