When the bears come out of the woods

Published 6:54 pm Saturday, May 28, 2016

Yes, Suffolk, there are bears in the woods, doing all the things that bears normally do in the woods.

It comes as a surprise to some — especially those who are new to the city — that Suffolk is home to wildlife as wild as black bears, but it’s true, and sometimes those bears wander into what we think of as civilization. Bears, after all, are not well known for their adherence to the imaginary boundaries separating wilderness areas like the Great Dismal Swamp from the places that humans have staked out for their homes and businesses.

Spring always seems to bring with it a cluster of bear sightings in Suffolk. This time of year, the bears in Suffolk are especially prone to exploring. Perhaps they’re foraging for delectable treats. Maybe they’re looking for love in all the wrong places. Could be they’re attracted to the divine smell of roasted peanuts carried on the season’s breezes.

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Whatever encourages them to foray outside of the woods, we can be sure the bears are there, but we can also take steps to make sure their visits to civilization are uneventful. Suffolk officials recommend the following steps to minimize the chances of dangerous meetings between human and ursidae:

  • Secure your garbage: Store garbage indoors, in a shed, in a garage or in a bear-proof container.
  • Put garbage out the morning of pick-up, not the night before.
  • Pick up pet food. Feed pets only what they will eat in a single feeding, or feed them indoors. Remove the food bowl soon after pets finish. Pick up uneaten food. Do not leave food out overnight.
  • Remove the bird feeder. Bears consume seed and nuts found in the wild, so bird feeders become a favored target for bears.
  • Clean the outdoor grill often.
  • Do not put meat scraps or any other strong-smelling food in the compost pile. Consider an enclosed compost bin.
  • Do not leave strong-smelling food in your vehicles.
  • Pick up and remove ripe fruit from fruit trees and surrounding grounds.

And finally, if you’re lucky enough to see a bear in Suffolk, remember that they’re not domesticated animals. Bears have big teeth and sharp claws for a reason, and they’re much faster than you might expect, given their great size. Give a visiting bear a wide berth. Go on inside and have some peanuts.