Within the Hudson Valley, many municipalities with natural areas are home to a variety of species of animals including the black bear. With assistance from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), the Town of Newburgh has posted on their website safety information and facts about black bears, as there have been several sightings within recent weeks.
The DEC reports that New York State has a recorded population of 8,000 black bears, scientifically known as Ursus americanus, and which are the second largest land mammal in the state following the moose. Average adult males have been recorded to weigh about 300 lbs., while females weigh 160 lbs.
Jonathan Russell, a Wildlife Biologist for DEC Zone 3, said black bears tend to leave their dens in mid-March.
“This is a time of year when males are looking for females,” said Russell. “They’re covering larger areas, kind of trying to search out those receptive females.”
Typically within urban and suburban areas, according to Russell, bears known as yearlings, or young bears, are searching for food. Bears are classified as omnivores, meaning that they prefer foods such as nuts, roots, fruit, plants and insects. Dead animals are scavenged by bears but they rarely feed on live prey, according to the DEC.
“The number one thing you really need to do is think about removing any food sources in the area. Keep your garbage in a sturdy shed or your garage. Take down bird feeders in mid-March,” said Russell. “They’re [bears] smart animals, they’re going to keep returning to that same location expecting that same reward. If you do see a bear around a house, or in a suburban area, it’s always a good idea to make some effort just to chase it off.”
Other DEC recommendations are to feed pets indoors, clean grills after every usage and store properly, protect livestock and beehives and keep frozen goods in a secure place. Though the DEC has been called in to relocate bears, bears have been able to return to familiar feeding grounds and habitats after being relocated hundreds of miles away from the previous site.
If you do come upon a bear or a bear comes upon you, the DEC recommends that you should not panic and never approach or attempt to make contact with it. Back away slowly from it, and if it does not leave, loud noises can help deter it away. “If they have a safe escape route, they’re really going to take that,” said Russell. “They don’t want conflict with people typically.”
Town of Newburgh Parks Commissioner James Presutti said an average of 250 hikers a day come into Chadwick Lake Park. He stressed that residents who encounter wild animals should not interact with the creature and provide a safe route for the animal to escape. Presutti again emphasized that residents should respect the animals’ space and not to interfere with them. If there are still concerns, cans of bear spray can help deter them.“We have deer, we have swans, we’ve seen a fox now and then, we’ve seen coyote and your typical beaver, Canada geese,” said Presutti. “We have owls, we have a pair of bald eagles. We have osprey, falcons, your typical rabbits and things like that.”