More on Black Bears

September 29, 2013Nature
Author: David S. Thomson DVM

The Black Bear talk last Wednesday evening was a real success. Ralph Taylor from MassWildlife spoke to 40 or 50 of us at the Forbes Library about black bear biology, behavior, and interactions with humans.

Black bears are native to this area. During the 1800s and early 1900s, the bear population in Massachusetts plummeted. Much of New England had been cleared for farmland. Large wooded tracts were scarce, and thus bears became scarce. As our state has reforested, the black bears have come back. With more woodland, fewer hunters, and more available food sources (birdfeeders, compost, trash…) the bear population has exploded, and interactions with humans have increased. Because of this, said Taylor, it is more important than ever that people know how best to interact with bears.

Some bear things we learned:

  • Do not feed the bears! Bird feeders, compost heaps, open trash containers all attract bears.
  • Bears have good eye sight and hearing, but they have an extraordinary sense of smell. A bear can smell oiled black sunflower seeds from 2 miles away.
  • Bears have long memories. They will remember the location of a good food source for years.
  • Bears are typically shy and easily scared away. If they become habituated to humans and human food, however, they can become bold and even aggressive.
  • Do not approach bears. Also do not run away from bears; they run much faster than you can. Back away slowly, and don’t look them in the eye. Do not climb trees to get away; bears can climb very well.Bears are here to stay. They are reproducing at an increasing rate and are moving into more densely populated areas. It is important that we learn how best to interact with them both for our safety and for theirs.

If you have a situation that involves a bear in a densely populated area, contact the Environmental Police at 800-632-8075 (24 hours) or the MassWildlife office at 413-323-7632 to activate the Large Animal Response Team.

For more information, please visit

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