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Do not feed the bears and other helpful tips

Matthew Lane • May 13, 2018 at 12:00 PM

KINGSPORT — Ridgefields residents shouldn’t be too surprised if they happen to walk out their back door and spot a black bear nosing through the garbage or raiding the vegetable garden.

The neighborhood does back up to Bays Mountain Park after all. And recently, a few residents have spotted a black bear in their neighborhood and are spreading the news on social media and by email.

“It’s natural,” said Bob Culler, a park ranger at Bays Mountain. “Bears have started developing a much better tolerance for being around humans. We’ll start seeing them in neighborhoods and in particular where there’s a lot of food ... people leaving trash cans out and feeding pets in the backyard.”

Those are the two worst things people can do if they happen to live near an area where black bears are known to live.

If you do nothing else, Culler said, make sure you lock up your garbage cans and bring in your pet food at night. Not only does the food attract bears, but other forms of wildlife too.

Here are some helpful tips when dealing with black bears.

— Leave them alone and give them plenty of space.

— The best way to scare off a bear is to make noise by banging on something or yelling.

— If you have a compost pile, pour some pickling lime on it. It helps contain the odors.

— Keep your trash cans locked in a garage or other building during the night.

— Pour a small amount of ammonia in the bottom of your garbage cans. The smell will help drive away bears and other animals.

— Bird feeders and pet food should be brought inside at night, and outdoor grills should be stored inside a garage.

— Try to locate gardens, orchards, pet kennels and beehives a safe distance from your house.

Culler said that black bears are good tree climbers and can probably scale your typical fence with ease. They’re adaptable, quick learners and generally not violent. Unless they’re looking for food.

“If they get used to eating people food and someone is trying to feed them, they can bite you,” Culler said. “The vast majority of the time they’re not aggressive toward people and pretty respectful. Once they figure out you’re human, they’ll turn tail and run.”

Black bears can also be destructive in certain situations, again if food happens to be involved. Culler remembers a time a few years back when the park had a padlocked freezer with some feed corn inside.

“We came in one morning and a black bear had flipped it over on its side. It got its paws in the crack of the door enough to bend the lid off and eat the bag of corn,” Culler said. “If it’s something to eat, they’ll figure out a way to get to it.”

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