Be aware of the bears

Two Wisconsin men who were attacked by black bears this year sustained injuries requiring hospital care.

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources says a Burnett County man was attacked while out in his yard near Shell Lake.

DNR carnivore specialist David MacFarland in Rhinelander, says the man’s dog apparently had initiated contact with the bear before the man was attacked.

MacFarland says the man’s brother was in the cabin, came out and shot and injured the bear, which ran away.

Earlier this year, Gerre Ninnemann’s dog tangled with a bear outside in Marinette County town of Goodman before it attacked him.

Ninnemann’s wife hit the bear over the head with a gun. That bear was shot and killed by a sheriff’s deputy.

MacFarland says black bear are not aggressive animals and usually don’t attack, so the recent attacks in Wisconsin are rare incidents.

Rare or not, these are scary incidents. Outdoor enthusiasts must be aware and be cautious.

Due to the secluded nature of the Ottawa National Forest, visitors may experience an encounter with a black bear, whether on the trail, in a developed campground, or in the wilderness areas, officials said.

“We have had several reported encounters in the past week, including a bear getting into a tent in the wilderness and a bear eating food from boxes and a cooler at one of our drive-in campgrounds,” said Lisa Klaus, Public Affairs Officer for the Ottawa National Forest in Ironwood. “Once bears become accustomed to human food and garbage, they become drawn to areas of human occupation.”

Black bears have had a long hibernation and are having a hard time finding their natural food sources due to the late spring, so they are attracted to human food sources when they are available. In order to keep yourself and our black bears safe, please practice bear safety.

Bear Safety while camping includes:

– Secure all food, including coolers and food boxes, in your vehicle or hard-sided camper when not in use. Never leave any food or trash unattended.

– Never store food in your tent or backpack. Tents, backpacks and other gear have been destroyed by bears because food has been stored in them. Do not cook or eat in tents or soft-sided campers. Do not sleep in the clothes you are wearing while cooking.

– If a bear comes into your camp, bang pots and pans and make noise to discourage further exploration.

– Wash dirty dishes and other cooking tools immediately after use. Strain food particles and dispose of waste water at least of 200 feet from a campsite or water to prevent attracting wildlife.

– Treat food wrappers and other garbage the same as food. Keep a clean camp.

Bear Safety while hiking includes:

– While hiking, make noise so you do not sneak up on a bear.

– If you encounter a bear on a trail, give them plenty of space and slowly walk away and leave the trail to the bear. Never approach a black bear. Bears may be traveling with their cubs and their behavior is unpredictable. If you see cubs, stop, and look for a way to back out of the area.

– Keep your food odors to a minimum by storing trail snacks in sealed plastic containers.

– Do not leave unwanted food behind on the trail because if a bear finds it, they will begin to associate hikers with food.

– Do not let your dog run loose, because they will run back to you if they get frightened by a bear, potentially leading the angry bear right back to you.

– If a bear visits your campsite more than once, it may need to be moved to a more suitable area. Notify any National Forest employee if a bear becomes a nuisance.

The possibility of seeing wildlife in its natural habitat is one of the reasons people visit wildernesses. Seeing a black bear is a rare and exciting experience remembered for years to come. But the very things that make bears fun to watch – their curiosity, acrobatic antics and large appetites – are the things that give bears the ability to ruin a wilderness trip.

Bears can also be a problem closer to home, Michigan Department of Natural Resources officials say.

It might be hard to believe black bears see a bird feeder as food source, but they do, officials said. Bird feeders, garbage cans and barbeque grills are all bear attractants that humans can control.

Food, mating, and young bears establishing their own territories are all reasons bears are more noticeable right now. Bears typically mate in June or July, and the mother will kick out her yearlings in order to do so.

“Bears are looking for food and new territory,” said Michigan DNR bear and furbearer specialist Adam Bump. “While we might not think of bird feeders and trash cans as food sources, a hungry bear certainly may.”

“The majority of complaints we receive about nuisance bears involve a food source. The easiest thing people can do to avoid creating a problem is to take in their bird feeders and store other attractants – like grills, trash cans and pet food – in a garage or storage shed,” Bump said.

Bird seed is especially attractive to bears because of its high fat content and ease of access. Once bird feeders are discovered, bears will keep coming back until the seed is gone or the feeders have been removed. Bears are capable of remembering reliable food sources from year to year.

Bears that are rewarded with food each time they visit a yard can become habituated to man-made food sources.

This can create an unsafe situation for the bear and become a nuisance for landowners if a bear continuously visits their yard during the day and repeatedly destroys private property in search of food.

Those who have taken appropriate actions to remove food sources for a period of two to three weeks, but are not seeing results, should contact the nearest Michigan DNR office and speak with a wildlife biologist or technician for further assistance.