Tips to keep foraging bears out of your yard this fall

WASHINGTON — Black bears trying to fatten up before going into hibernation are searching for new food sources and that might cause them to lose their natural fear of people.

“They’re basically food-driven at this time of the year,” said Nancy Doran with Wildlife and Heritage Service of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. “They’re doing a lot of traveling, getting into a bit more trouble than usual.”

Black bears in Maryland are concentrated in Frederick, Allegany, Garrett and Washington counties.

In Virginia, they occupy most of the state with fewer sightings in D.C. suburbs of Northern Virginia.

If you know you have bears in the area, it’s wise to take any precautions necessary to avoid attracting them, Doran said.

Homeowners can take steps to help reduce the likelihood of encountering bears by being cautious about leaving trash outside and not leaving pet food outdoors. Unless it’s in a building, trash should be in a secure box or bin.

Other things you can do to keep bears away is to clean up droppings from fruit-bearing trees. And if bird-feeders are filled, bring them in at night.  “In another couple of weeks, bears will start denning up and [putting bird-feeders out ] won’t be an issue,” Doran said.

Bears typically are shy and secretive. If you see one, you might be able to scare it away by making loud noises, shouting or banging a pot.

Last November, a bear attacked a woman in the driveway of her Frederick, Maryland home. “It was kind of a unique situation,” Doran said, in that the bear had become very acclimated to the neighborhood.

The woman got between the mother bear and her cubs, was attacked, mauled and suffered a broken arm.

“The bear was euthanized as a result,” Doran said. “But, that was the first time in 80 years that anything like that had happened.” Doran said those types of interactions with bears can be preventable.

Kristi King

Kristi King is a veteran reporter who has been working in the WTOP newsroom since 1990. She covers everything from breaking news to consumer concerns and the latest medical developments.

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