The return of spring sets nature in motion as flowers bloom, birds migrate and black bears start lumbering into farm fields and neighborhoods.
“I was standing in the living room, and I just saw a big black presence out of the corner of my eye, and I turned my head and I seen that it was a huge bear,” said Dave Skenandore who lives on County Highway H near the Town of Oneida Fire Station. The bear crossed his back yard as his daughter shot video from their back door.
“Right now what you’re experiencing is young, sub-adult males moving through the area looking for home range. If people come across them in their yards, it’s because they’re attracted to some sort of food source, whether it’s bird feeders, their barbeque grill, trash, recycling,”, said Natural Resource Director Shad Webster. “The department has received bear concerns for the past 10 years. There’s always one roaming around the area.”
Webster stated that a bear’s sense of smell is seven times strong than that of a blood hound.
“If they get an easy meal, so to speak, and they’re not startled or scared away, they’re going to remember that and they’re going to come back,” Said Webster. “People need to be mindful of their trash and cleaning that up, keeping them in closed containers, and then also making sure that the grill areas are cleaned up … the drippings in there, that needs to be cleaned up.”
While male black bears can average 250 pounds or more, they’re easily spooked.
“If you come across the bear, make noise, do not run. It may trigger their chase or attack instinct. They say to try and get as big as possible, even if you have a coat on, open and flare that so that you look bigger than the bear,” said Webster. “Be aware, but don’t be afraid. It’s a cliché, but they really are more afraid of you than you are of them.”
More caution should be taken with a female sow with cubs, however.
“Do not get in between the mom and her cubs. If they were in the area, and people wanted to go outside and do different things, make plenty of noise when you’re out there; even a radio outside in the yard playing while you’re out there,” said Webster. The female, she’s teaching her young. If she comes across easy food, she’s going to teach that, it’s going to get ingrained in those young ones.”
The return of big animals such as bears, wolves, coyotes and bobcats to the Oneida Reservation is a sign of a healthy ecosystem, said Webster.
“They’ve always been here. The division, the nation itself has done a lot of work around the restoration efforts in our natural world, and with those enhancements brings in the opportunity for a … species to come back,” said Webster.
Webster wants people to contact his department about bear sightings.
“If (people) are experiencing some sort of aggressive or nuisance animal or bear, always notify your authorities, law enforcement, conservation department, but even if it’s just a sighting, we like to hear those reports, too. It helps us to keep track of where they are, what they’re doing, where they’re moving,” said Webster.
Don’t put out bird seed and pet food
Keep garbage in the garage and in closed containers
Keep grills clean
Rinse out recyclables before discarding
Play a radio if you’re going to be outside
If you see a bear:
Make yourself as big as possible by waving your arms or using a jacket
Contact Oneida Conservation at 920-869-1450 to report a sighting or a nuisance animal