Black bear den image, courtesy of bear.org
This winter, State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) wildlife biologists are seeking the public's help to learn about new black bear dens throughout New York. As part of DEC's ongoing monitoring of black bears in New York, wildlife biologists routinely check on black bears during the winter den season. The bears may be fitted with a radio collar to help biologists track the bears' activities throughout the rest of the year and to relocate dens in subsequent years for monitoring cub production, condition, and survival.
"There is great value in having resident participation for this type of wildlife research," said DEC Acting Commissioner Basil Seggos. "DEC's wildlife biologists use public feedback from these studies as a guidance measure for future wildlife management and planning efforts. I encourage anyone that encounters a bear den to follow our safety instructions and reach out to their local DEC office for reporting."
Bears may den in a rock crevice, tree cavity, or under heavy brush or fallen tree. Since female bears generally give birth sometime in January or early February, a high-pitched squeal from the cubs may be audible if you are near a den. If anyone finds a bear den, DEC strongly urges the public to not approach or disturb the den, but simply to note the location and move away from the den site.
DEC requests that anyone locating a bear den to contact their local DEC Wildlife office with specifics about the den location, including GPS coordinates if possible.
Black Bear Facts
Black bears are large - They have erect, rounded ears; a long, narrow, brown muzzle; and a short tail. An average adult male weighs about 300 pounds while females average about 170 pounds.
Black bears can remain dormant for up to 5 months in winter.
Bears eat nearly anything - They are omnivorous; eating grasses, berries, fruit, nuts, seeds, insects, grubs, and carrion, as well as human sources of food like corn, honey, bird seed, trash, and pet food when available.
Bears are curious - They spend a great deal of time exploring for food, and this can bring them close to humans.
Bears are intelligent - Bears learn from experience. If an activity results in food, they will repeat that activity. If an encounter with a human is negative, they learn to avoid humans. Also if an encounter with a human doesn't result in a reward (food), they will not have any reason to have contact with humans.
Feeding bears creates human-bear conflicts - When bears learn to obtain food from humans, they can become bold and aggressive. Deliberate and intentional feeding of bears is illegal in New York (leaves DEC website).
Feeding bears is bad for bears - Bears' natural foraging habits and behavior can be changed. Usually solitary, bears can be concentrated in areas causing stress, injuries from physical conflicts, and the spread of diseases. Often when feeding on garbage or camper's supplies, bears will eat unhealthy materials such as soap, shaving cream, insect repellant, food packaging, etc.
More information about black bears in New York is available at DEC's Black Bear webpage.