FRANKFORT — Hungry black bears are now roaming the mountains of southeastern Kentucky looking for food, and feeding them is against Kentucky law.
“Bears fresh out of their dens haven’t eaten for a few months and are hungry when they leave their dens in spring,” said John Hast, bear program biologist with the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. “Natural foods are still sparse through the month of May, so the bears are looking for an easy meal.”
Bears, a rarity in Kentucky 20 years ago, are now more plentiful as they have migrated from surrounding states. Kentucky Fish and Wildlife does not stock bears.
Garbage, food scraps, pet food and bird feeders can draw bears. Citizens can resolve 99 percent of issues with bears by removing or securing these sources of food.
Bears primarily inhabit southeastern Kentucky, but may wander farther in spring and summer as family groups disperse. Residents in bear areas should wait until the morning of pickup before putting garbage out. Unsecured cans left out overnight are an invitation to a hungry bear.
Another draw for bears is pet food left on a porch, especially at night. Residents should only put out enough pet food for one meal and remove the bowl at night. Food left outside can attract other unwanted wildlife, including raccoons, opossums, rodents and coyotes. Residents should avoid throwing table scraps to pets in the yard, as the scent can attract wildlife.
Birds can survive well in the warmer months because plenty of natural food is available. Residents should consider taking up their bird feeders in spring and not putting them back out until the arrival of cold weather.
Visitors enjoying the mountain visas in spring or summer should store food or coolers in a trunk or out of sight if they leave the vehicle unattended.
“These simple solutions will keep a bear that is passing through from overstaying their welcome,” Hast said.
“Bears become habituated to humans when people feed them,” he continued. “Bears that lose their fear of people or have been routinely fed will likely have to be captured and destroyed as they are more likely to approach people expecting a handout.”
For more information about black bears in Kentucky, visit the website of the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources at fw.ky.gov. Search under the keyword, “bears.”