Release Date: 01/10/2006

Bears can be good neighbors; they just need a little help.  In fact, if everything goes well, you might not even know they are there.  Most conflicts between bears and humans are related to the animals search for food.  An amazingly acute sense of smell enables the bear to find sources of nourishment, and unfortunately this can be your garbage or pet food.

Bears are generally shy creatures, but are very intelligent and possess excellent learning and long-term memory capabilities. Bears will continue to return to areas where they have found food in the past.  Bears lose their instinctive fear of humans quite easily when food conditioned and can become nuisances as a result.

The best way to avoid trouble with bears is to prevent the issues from arising in the first place.  Secure all garbage containers or deposit all edible wastes in separate containers that are stored where bears cannot gain access.  When possible, keep your garbage inside your home or closed utility shed in doubled-up garbage bags and put the garbage out the morning of pick up, not the night before, to limit the time a bear will have access to your garbage.  To further eliminate attractive odors wash the refuse containers about once a week with disinfectant solution. 

Pet foods, bird feeders and outdoor grills can attract bears.  If attractants are allowed to remain outdoors for extended periods of time, a bear will surely find it and will come back for more.  Limit the amount of time pet food is out, and take all foods in at night.  Suspend bird feeders out of a bears reach at least 8 to 10 ft high.  After cooking out, clean grills to eliminate odors that will bring in bears. 

Although intentionally feeding wild black bears is illegal in Louisiana, problems still occur when people toss food out so that they can watch or photograph bears.  In these situations, both the humans and the bear quickly lose fear of each other.  Fear of humans is a bear's most important survival mechanism.  Once bears lose their fear of humans, there is little incentive for them to avoid circumstances that bring the two together.  This could easily result in a dangerous situation for both people and the bear.  While there are no records of bears acting aggressively towards a person in Louisiana, bears accustomed to people are still wild animals and can act in unpredictable ways.

EDITORS: For more information, contact Maria Davidson at 225-765-2385 or mdavidson@wlf.louisiana.gov.