Jeremy Hurst is a wildlife biologist with New York's Department of Environmental Conservation. He says there are more bears in New York now than in previous decades, especially in the southern part of the state.
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“We’ve seen growth both numerically, and in distribution in the southern part of the state, as bears numbers have climbed, and they’ve moved into areas that have been unoccupied by bears for many decades.”
He says the number of bears in the North Country and Adirondacks has remained stable. But some villages and hamlets have had problems this year: “This summer in particular was interesting for us because we had drought conditions midsummer, a lot of natural foods were unavailable for bears, and it intensified some of the problem bear behaviors we saw in a few key communities in the Adirondacks and a few communities in the Catskills.”
Hurst says when people provide food for bears, it encourages bears to search around where people live, in garbage cans and bird feeders. He says some have gotten even more aggressive.
"There was a real intense issue in the Old Forge inlet corridor with bears breaking into homes or screen porches, causing problems at campsites. Or in a few cases breaking into the wall of a candy shop or other businesses to get at what smelled good inside."
A few weeks ago, a DEC officer shot and killed a young black bear in Long Lake. The DEC says the bear’s mother had been killed by a car in the summer. People felt sorry for the cub, and started feeding it. The bear lost its fear of humans and approached a young child, so the DEC put it down to protect the community’s safety.
The DEC says it’s illegal to feed bears in New York. And that an active hunting season should reduce such incidence. For those who do encounter a bear, the DEC says never approach it, and don’t run from a bear—instead, walk away slowly.