Warwick part of DEC's bear education program this summer

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:50

    WARWICK-Meredith L. Gore knows just about all there is to know about black bears. She is a Ph.D. candidate at Cornell University and her field of study is those adorable black bear. Many of them have been seen in the area lately, which is why Gore addressed the Village Board Monday night. She is performing research that she hopes will result in three goals: reduce human bear conflict, reach as many people as possible who come in contact with bear, and provide an evaluation component to determine the effectiveness of the materials she is handing out. Warwick and Woodstock were chosen, in part, because these are the areas where most of the complaints are coming from, according to Gore and the DEC. She also felt that all three of her goals could be achieved looking at the data from these areas. "Bear problems are community-wide issues," said Gore. "Communication and cooperation with one another can solve the problems." According to the DEC, the Adirondak and Catskill ranges have the highest number of black bear in New York State. There are an estimated 4,500 black bears in New York alone. With the average adult female reaching 160 pounds and the average adult male at 300 pounds, coming into contact with them can be scary. Gore said it shouldn't be. "Bears are timid creatures," she said. "They are afraid of humans." Still, while a motorist might be thrilled at the sight of a black bear off in the field, residents may be more shocked to walk out of their door at night to find one going through the garbage can just a few feet away. The best way to keep bear out of residential neighborhoods, according to Gore, is to keep food away from them. "Food is the key," said Gore. Bears eat both plants and animal foods, including fruits, nuts, leaves, insects and already-dead animals. But bear are opportunists, according to the DEC — they take advantage of any food source available. One of the biggest attractions in residential neighborhoods for bear is bird feeders. Bears love birdseed. Gore recommends discontinuing feeding of birds until late fall and winter when bear activity is low. Also, keep trash containers tightly sealed and do not put them at the curb for pick-up until the morning. Do not put your garbage out only in plastic bags. And keep your pet's food indoors as well. Your chances of seeing a black bear in the wild are low because of the bear's strong instinct to avoid people, according to the DEC. However, many bears become accustomed to people because they are attracted to the food around them. And what should you do if your path does cross that of a black bear? Stay calm is Gore's first suggestion. "They are more afraid of you than you are of them," she said. Humans should back away slowly, always giving the bear a clear path of escape. Never run suddenly or scream, which is probably the first instinct of most. Gore is busy this summer passing out information on how to keep bears out of residential areas. She has all kinds of ways to get that message across — refrigerator magnets, brochures, lawn signs, a reprinted article from the Conservationist Magazine — even a billboard on Route 17A in Florida which is set to go up next week. And there is no shortage on word plays — like "Be a Good NeighBEAR" and "NeighBEARhood Watch." She is also scouting out locations for her "Bearometer," six-foot high by four feet wide signs that will show when bear activity is low, medium, or high. As a rule, bear activity is medium to high during the spring and summer months and into early fall. Low activity occurs in the late fall and winter when bears are hibernating. Many of the materials are available at the Town of Warwick police department on King's Highway. Gore is eager to help out in any way she can. Anyone wanting more information on keeping bears away from neighborhoods may contact her via e-mail at mlg35@cornell.edu or contact the Regional DEC office in New Paltz.