Long Lake New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) staff shot and killed a young bear after it approached a child, getting as close as 4 feet, on Tuesday, Sept. 25.
According to DEC Region 5 spokesman Dave Winchell, area residents had been feeding the bear for the past two or three months after its mother was killed by a vehicle. Winchell confirmed on Oct. 5 that the bear was female.
Winchell said the bear was being fed by people from their cars, leaving food out for it and was reportedly living on someone’s porch for a few weeks.
Because the bear was becoming so comfortable with people, Winchell said it becomes a public safety concern.
“Once they become habituated to see humans as a source of food, it’s a possibility the bear could become aggressive towards humans that don’t give them food,” Winchell said.
Winchell said he thinks some of the people thought they were helping the bear by feeding it and others were attracted to the novelty of feeding a wild bear.
“They were actually doing more harm than good,” Winchell said. “If someone thinks there is an animal who needs help, they should call the DEC and we can determine the bear’s needs.
Anyone who suspects there is an animal in distress should call the DEC emergency dispatch at 897-1300 or call wildlife officers at 897-1291.
“We have rehabilitators who can take care of the bear and then put it back into the wild, or they can determine if the bear is old enough to care of itself,” Winchell said.
Seven bears, including the bear shot on Sept. 25, have been killed in DEC Region 5 this year because of elevated nuisance behavior. Winchell said at least that many have been killed in Region 6 in the western Adirondacks this year as well.
The bear population appears to be up this year from previous years, and the dry season has encouraged bears to look for food outside of foraging the woods Winchell said.
The high volume of food is believed to be responsible for a plentiful breeding season last season. Winchell said he recently spotted a mother with four cubs walking through a nearby orchard, an abnormally high number of cubs, Winchell said.