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Kentucky Fish and Wildlife offers suggestions to up residents' bear IQ

Image of a black bear in someone's back yard
KY Fish and Wildlife Resources
Image of a black bear in someone's back yard

Bear sightings are becoming more common in eastern and central Kentucky. Officials with the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources say it’s common to have bear sightings for this time of year.

The large animals are in the early days of their mating season and male bears are moving through wider areas.

John Hast is the bear and elk program coordinator for the department. He said it is important to not feed the bears, and reminds Kentuckians that a “fed bear is a dead bear.”

“Think about all the ways you might be unintentionally feeding one, whether that be setting out your garbage on the curb for pickup, could be bird feeders, could be a grill that you used yesterday that was dirty and may attract one up on your porch, so just think of all those ways a bear might able to get a meal around your house or property.”

Hast said residents of an area where a bear has been spotted should secure their garbage in a garage or other building, not leave pet food outside, and clean and securely store barbecue grills.

He said there are some simple ways anyone who encounters a bear can protect themselves.

“Yell at it, make sure it knows just exactly what you are and then try to make yourself look big. If you got a jacket on or something, unzip it, raise your arms, make yourself look big. I've dealt with some fairly habituated, bad bears and any time that you're loud and stand your ground, they're going in the other direction.”

Hast said this is dangerous because bears that are fed could lose their fear of people and become a hazard and must be removed. Kentucky has a population of around 1,500 bears, most of them are located in southeastern areas of the state.

Kentucky Fish and Wildlife maintains an extensive amount of information about black bears on its website. Go online to fw.ky.gov and search under the key words, “black bear,” or visit www.bearwise.org.

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Stan Ingold is WEKU's News Director. He has worked in public broadcasting for 18 years, starting at Morehead State Public Radio before spending the past 10 years at Alabama Public Radio. Stan has been honored with numerous journalism awards for his public radio reporting.
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