An increase in bear sightings is causing officials to issue guidance to keep you, your family and your pets safe.

Due to a number of confirmed bear sightings in the Hudson Valley and across the state, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos issued guidance to reduce the potential for human-bear conflicts.

Hudson Valley Post has reported on a number of bear sightings over the past few weeks. One ran through the backyard of a Hudson Valley home while a woman was grilling dinner; multiple bears were spotted in a Dutchess County woman's backyard; another bear was filmed running across yards in Beacon; while another was spotted near a playground in Ulster County; and a cub forced roads to be closed during rush hour in Poughkeepsie.

"Black bears have recently been reported in a number of suburban locations," Seggos said. "DEC is urging homeowners and property managers to follow the simple steps and guidance to keep bears from taking up residence in an area, including storing garbage in secure buildings, removing bird feeders, and feeding pets indoors. Preventing access to food sources is key to preventing nuisance bears."

Conflicts between people and bears typically increase in the summer because young bears leave their families and there is a lull in available natural food, according to the DEC.

"These conditions occasionally cause bears to travel through unfamiliar areas. Bears will take advantage of anything they consider a food source as they travel, adding to the potential for conflict. The most common attractants are poorly stored garbage, bird feeders, messy grills, and pet food left outdoors. Once a bear finds these foods, it will often continue to return to the area in hopes of finding the same food again," the DEC writes in a press release.

When bears have access to human foods, it encourages behaviors that can put bears at risk.

While bears can be intimidating, they generally try to avoid getting into conflicts with people, officials say.

The bears seen recently in New York are mostly young bears leaving their natural habitat and searching for new suitable habitat, according to the DEC.

The DEC released the following steps to avoid conflicts with bears:

Around Dwellings

  • Remove all bird feeders;
  • Keep garbage, grills, pet food, and bird seed inside a solid, secure structure (house, shed, garage, etc.);
  • If grills cannot be secured, move grills away from houses and remove grease traps after each use;
  • Put garbage on the curb the morning of collection, not the night before, and use bear-resistant trash containers; and
  • Close garage doors and ground-floor windows/doors at night.

At Campgrounds

  • Keep campsites as clean as possible;
  • Clean up after all meals immediately. Keep grills, pots, pans, cooking utensils, and wash basins clean when not in use;
  • Leave coolers and food inside car trunks or truck cabs;
  • Store food and coolers in food lockers when available;
  • NEVER keep food, coolers, or scented items in tents when camping. Store toiletries securely with coolers and food;
  • Do not put grease, garbage, plastic diapers, cans, bottles, or other refuse into the fireplace; and
  • Dispose of garbage in the campground's dumpsters every evening.

In the Backcountry

  • Pack a minimal amount of food. Use lightweight and dehydrated foods. Plan all meals to avoid leftovers;
  • Use bear-resistant food canisters, which are required in the Eastern High Peaks Wilderness of the Adirondack Park;
  • Cook and eat before dark and cook away from campsites;
  • Avoid spills and drippings while cooking and do not pour grease into fire pits; and
  • Never leave food unattended.

If you encounter a bear

  • Don't panic. Most bears are just as afraid of people as people are of bears;
  • Never approach, surround, or corner a bear;
  • Back away slowly - do not run;
  • Do not throw backpacks or food at bears. If bears are rewarded with food, they will continue to seek food from people; and
  • If feeling threatened by a bear, raise your arms over your head to look bigger and yell loudly at the bear while slowly backing away.

The DEC also reminds everyone that feeding a bear is illegal.

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