More Bears Subjected To Drought Conditions

Kentucky Dept. Fish & Wildlife, Bear Hunting Magazine

As the drought continues across a large portion of the United States, more and more states and bears living in those states are starting to see the changes. In Kentucky, for instance, forest visitors are under mandatory food storage orders to make sure they store food inside a hardtop vehicle or bear-resistant container when not cooking or eating. Burning or burying food, trash or any other bear attractant is prohibited.

"In most areas of eastern Kentucky, this summer's wild berry crop disappeared quickly," said Steven Dobey, bear biologist for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources."This is a very important food source for this time of year and with it gone, bears are roaming extensively in search of alternate foods."

July is also the end of the breeding season for bears so, in conjunction with the shortage of natural foods, the natural tendency for male bears to travel is at a peak right now. Ultimately, this creates a heightened potential for human-bear interactions, and often in places typically not frequented by bears.

"Right now, residents living or recreating in bear country need to be particularly mindful of food and garbage containment," said Dobey. "The most effective resolution to almost all bear issues is also the simplest; eliminate access to human-related food."

About 70 percent of all nuisance complaints in Kentucky are directly related to bears getting into somebody's garbage. After repeated access to human-related food or garbage, bears begin to lose their natural fear of people. Ultimately, it is that change in behavior that can cause nuisance problems in neighborhoods, towns, and backcountry areas. Kentucky law makes it illegal to feed bears intentionally or unintentionally.

"Human-bear interactions are by no means restricted to metropolitan areas," explains Dobey. "Access to garbage or food in more remote areas causes problems every year, particularly in campgrounds." The resolution is the same, however, and eliminating access to food is the key.

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