Thursday, 16 August 2018 13:37

Spike in Local Bear Sightings Result in Stricter DEC Regulations

Photos provided. 

WILTON — On August 10, Wilton resident Marcia Lyon was just getting into her car when she spotted a black bear in the middle of her road. Surprisingly enough, she’s not the only one in her neighborhood that has had an encounter with this creature.

Following a string of black bear sightings and posts to Facebook, Wilton residents may now be fined if they do not heed the warning of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to avoid nuisance black bears.

According to Jim Stickles, a DEC Region 5 wildlife biologist, as of today, Saratoga has 50 recorded nuisance bear complaints this year, 30 of which are from Wilton. The bears have also resisted several attempts to haze and chase them off.

He adds, “Unfortunately, either the message is not getting to everyone, people are choosing to ignore DEC guidance, or they are not fully comprehending DEC’s message. For example, when people call to file a complaint about the bear being on their property they often say they are only putting out their bird feeders during the day.”

“He was really big and about midway on the street when he stopped. He must have heard me... He turned his head and kind of looked at me and then I was like ‘Oh!,’” Lyon said. She was right next to her car at the time of the encounter.

“He started to gallop and then ran away,” she added.

Lyon, who lives near Lake Elizabeth, believes the bear has been in her yard at least twice, and according to Lyon has knocked down two of her neighbor’s bird feeders and broke another neighbor’s chain-link fence.

“He’s gotten very used to being in the neighborhood, I wasn’t scared at all when I saw him. I was actually excited, I wanted to see him,” Lyon said of the bear she believes to have been in and out of her neighborhood for the last three years.

In mid-July the DEC was dealing with a nuisance black bear in the Timberlane Drive area of the Town of Wilton. The bear continued to get into garbage and bird feeders to obtain food and resisted attempts to haze and chase it off.

Now the DEC has been forced to take an enforcement stance; “Residences with bird feeders and other bear attractants will be given a written warning. If they fail to heed the warning they will be issued a ticket that could result in a maximum penalty of $250 fine and 15 days in jail,” a notice on Wilton’s website reads. Black bears are often attracted to bird feeders because bird seed is an easy source of calories and will be sought out over other natural foods. They’re also more likely to seek out human food sources when natural food is scarce and especially during the summer during periods of drought.

“I truly think somebody needs to go around and put flyers in everybody’s mailboxes because so many people aren’t aware of what’s going on, they’re not on social media, they’re not paying attention,” said Lyon, who is also in favor of this new rule.

Intentionally feeding bears is already a ticket-able offense because once a bear gets fed by humans they will continue to seek food from the same source. The DEC advises residents to rid their properties of other bear attractants such as open garbage cans, household pet foods, food grills and outdoor refrigeration systems.

According to the DEC there are an estimated minimum of 6,000-8,000 bears in areas open to hunting and 50 percent to 60 percent of them inhabit the Adirondack region, which Saratoga County is also a part of. The town of Wilton is asking residents if they see a bear, report it immediately to the DEC wildlife unit at 518-897-1291.

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