We’ve all seen images of garbage cans knocked over, their contents strewn about, and sitting in the middle of the disaster is a content black bear happily munching away on a discarded pizza crust. With an abundance of black bears in the Adirondack Park (recent estimates from the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry indicate around 4000) it’s more important than ever for residents to understand the animal.
First and foremost, a black bear is a wild animal. Too many times, humans have regarded black bears as a sort of outdoor pet, providing food and sometimes shelter for the animals. This is a dangerous proposition – even though black bears are relatively non-aggressive, it creates a less-than-ideal environment for the bear and the human. Being fed by people lessens the bear’s natural instinct and makes it more comfortable around the human population.
That sounds good, right? Unfortunately, it rarely ends well. Bears need to eat almost constantly, and when they rely on humans for food, they can become a nuisance. And, removal of excessive numbers of nuisance bears can have a negative impact on the population. Not to mention, it’s also illegal to purposefully feed bears in New York.
Unlike the grizzly bear, black bears tend to be more timid and generally do not attack unless provoked – like when their food source is threatened, or cubs are involved. Black bears are mostly afraid that they will be attacked, as opposed to acting on the fear of people. Keep in mind that most bears that come into campsites and around birdfeeders and garbage cans are looking for food – not people to attack.
Black bears and the human population can peacefully coexist – mainly thanks to the nature of the black bear. Shy, elusive and secretive, the black bear prefers to avoid people. It is mainly through the provision of unnatural food that the black bear has become more acclimated to humans. By keeping outside food sources, like unsecured garbage cans, coolers, and dumpsters to a minimum, the bear will likely stay in the forest, enjoying his usual diet of berries, bark and bugs.
To learn more about bears in the Adirondack Park, click here. For even more information, visit the general store with an extensive book section, Charlie Johns in Speculator, where you’ll find a number of titles about Adirondack wildlife.