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Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Tip #1: Leave them alone

By ecoRI.org News staff

Black bears have been sighted in both the northern and southern parts of the state. In northern Rhode Island, bears were seen in Lincoln, Smithfield, North Smithfield, Burrillville, Foster, Glocester and Scituate. Black bears have also been spotted in Exeter, West Greenwich, Richmond and Hopkinton.

As black bear populations continue to increase in neighboring states, it's likely that their presence in Rhode Island will become more frequent, according to the state Department of Environmental Management (DEM). A single wandering bear can be responsible for numerous sightings.


Breeding season for black bears occurs during June and July, causing adult males to travel great distances in search of breeding-age females. 

DEM environmental police officers and wildlife biologists are working with local police to track bear sightings and complaints. They are also educating people on how to coexist with these bears.

Black bears are generally shy and fearful of humans. However, they can become dependent on backyard food sources. Although they have poor eyesight, bears are intelligent and adaptable, and have a keen sense of smell that detects garbage, birdseed, fruit, compost piles, outdoor pet dishes and barbecue grills. Once a bear finds a food source it may return to the same site.

The DEM says it's important to reduce these sources. Without food attractions, and left alone, a curious bear will usually wander back into more secluded areas. Here are some tips provided by the DEM:

• If you see a bear on your property either leave it alone and wait for it to leave, or make loud noises from a safe distance and wave your arms to scare it away.

• If you surprise a bear at close range, walk away slowly while facing the bear, but avoid eye contact, which it might perceive as a threat.

• No hunting. In Rhode Island, black bears are protected animals and hunting them is illegal.

Black bears are generally solitary creatures. In the East, they range from New England south through the Appalachians to northern Georgia. Black bear habitat is forestland, generally with both deciduous and coniferous trees, along with streams, swamps and rock ledges. Bears are typically nocturnal, but may be active during the day. They are omnivorous and eat grasses, leaves, fruit, nuts and berries. 

Occasionally, they will prey on small mammals, yet rarely on deer and livestock. They will also eat insects, particularly ants and bees, and scavenge carrion.

Adult female black bears weigh between 110 and 150 pounds; adult males typically weigh between 200 and 250 pounds. Adults are 5-6 feet long. They climb trees and can swim, and they can run up to 35 mph. Females will defend their cubs, so it's important to avoid them and never get between a female and her cubs.


For more information, visit dem.ri.gov. Call the DEM at 401-222-3070 to report a bear sighting.