Spring time on the Plateau is a magical time. Birds are chirping a bit more cheerily and flowers are starting to bloom, from a blue covered meadow, to the blaze of color of rhododendrons adorning our yards. Spring also brings our animal neighbors, the American Black Bear, out of hibernation and on the prowl for food after a cold, harsh winter. When visiting our area or arriving for the season you will likely encounter one of these beautiful animals, often with cubs in tow, and probably closer to home than you imagined.
We’ve been living peacefully side by side for many years but it is important to use common sense and ensure our safety and theirs. First and foremost don’t leave anything out that will attract bears. Don’t leave bird food, trash or any other food out, or even in your cars. Once they see your home as the perfect picnic stop they are likely to visit over and over. The old adage is that a “fed bear is a dead bear” is sadly too true. A bear that looks to humans as a food source is a bear that can become a problem bear.
While watching them through a closed window is an experience we all enjoy, an encounter closer than that can leave our hearts racing and adrenaline pumping. It’s important to keep your wits about you and keep a few safety tips in mind. Bears are wild animals and should always be treated with caution and respect. Keep as much distance between you and them as possible. Make a wide detour around them, or back away slowly. If a bear sees you they may stop and stand up to get a better look or smell. As hard as it sounds don’t panic, make sudden movements or run. Talk in a soothing tone letting it know you are no threat and back away slowly while extending your arms over your head. The bigger you seem, the more powerful a bear thinks you are and the less likely they are to bother you. If you’ve come upon one too suddenly, gotten too close, or come between a Mamma and her cubs, it may feel threatened and try to intimidate you by popping its jaws or swaying from side to side. It may even bluff charge. As impossible as it seems stand your ground until the bear turns away, then slowly back away.
It is extremely uncommon for bears to attack humans so knowing the proper safety tips and acting calmly helps ensure that we continue to peacefully co-exist.