Beware of black bears: Wisconsin DNR on how to stay safe

A bear caught on a Ring camera knocking over a bird feeder at a home in Madison, Wis. Learn how to safeguard against unwanted bear encounters this summer./ Photo Credit: Tammi Sonnen

It seems like Dane County really knows where the wild things are after several bear sightings have been caught on camera. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) wants to remind Wisconsinites what precautions to take when spotting a bear. 

A news release from the DNR says if a bear is near your home or cabin:

  • Wave your arms and make noise to scare it away.
  • Back away slowly and seek a safe location where you can wait for the bear to leave.
  • When scaring a bear away, make sure it has a clear escape route; never corner a bear.
  • If you encounter a bear while in the woods, stay calm and do not approach the bear.
  • Never approach a sow with cubs.
  • For your safety, do not attempt to break up a fight between your pet and a bear.

Black bears are the most common bear in Wisconsin and are primarily found in the northern half of the state. However, the population has been slowly creeping down the state over the past decade. While sightings are typically rare, sightings are higher during the summer due to the bear mating season and when 18-months-old are pushed out by their mothers and are on their own for the first time. 

In addition to bear sightings, here are some ways to avoiding attracting bears altogether: 

  • Do not knowingly feed a bear.
  • Completely remove bird feeders, even during daytime hours – Bears are active during the day and may cause problems even if the feeders are out only during that time.
  • Clean areas where bird feeders were located so that accumulated deposits of spilled seed are removed.
  • Reduce garbage odors by rinsing food cans before putting them in covered recycling containers or garbage cans.
  • Keep meat scraps in the freezer until garbage day, and if possible, keep garbage cans in a closed building until the morning of pick-up.
  • Be sure to lock commercial dumpsters.
  • Keep pet food inside or inaccessible to bears even during daytime hours.
  • Keep grills and picnic tables clean.

Once a bear finds food, it will most likely come back for more. Bears will periodically check sites where food was once available so they might return a couple of times before they cross that spot off their list of "where to get free food." 

FREE DOWNLOAD: Get breaking news alerts in the FOX6 News app for iOS or Android

More information about black bear behavior and avoiding unwanted encounters can be found in the DNR’s "Living with Bears in Wisconsin" brochure. 

If unable to resolve a conflict with a bear, contact the USDA Wildlife Services toll-free line at 1-800-433-0663 for properties in Southern Wisconsin and 1-800-228-1368 for properties in Northern Wisconsin.