Irving woman spots bear

IRVING – It is not often one sees a bear in their yard, but this is exactly what happened to Irving resident Edith Beck on Sept. 2.

“I was outside walking my dog in the back yard. I bent down to untangle the leash and when I looked up there was the bear just 20 feet away,” she said in a phone interview.

Beck said she wasn’t afraid, but was a little startled to see such a strange visitor in her yard. She described it as not very big for a bear.

“Just off of watching Animal Plant on TV I would say it wasn’t full-grown, maybe last year’s cub. It looked to be under 200 pounds,” she added.

She said the bear ran off right after she saw it.

“When it saw that I had seen it, it took off in the other direction,” she said.

Beck said she has heard rumors of others spotting the bear all over Irving. Beck lives with her husband and two dogs on Main Road and said it is not a woodsy area.

“We have trees but the woods are further back by the railroad tracks,” she said.

She said she has not heard of the bear getting into any garbage cans, but she has begun to bring in her bird feeder at night as a precaution.

Beck said she feels threatened by the bear’s presence and would like it to be trapped and relocated.

However, according to Department of Environmental Conservation Senior Wildlife Biologist Tim Spierto, this is not an option.

“That is not really feasible right now. We have a population and range of bears that is expanding so there is really no place to put these bears. Just because a bear wanders into Irving doesn’t mean we are going to swoop in and remove it. We would have to move the bear over 100 miles for them not to find their way home and there is really no place to put them,” he said. “People out here need to get used to having bears around because the bears aren’t going anywhere. They are here to stay even in Irving”

Spierto said although the bear population is on the rise, with as many as 1,000 living in western New York alone, a sighting is still rare.

“My advice is to take a picture because you will probably never see another one. They are still pretty secretive animals,” he said.

He explained an increase in habitats for the bears has led to their larger numbers. Also, bears do not exclusively live in forests and can be found in many developed areas.

He added although a bear sighting is a rare experience, it is unwise and illegal to feed bears or leave food out to attract them.

“We want you to secure all food sources. Never allow bears access to food and that’s bird seed, garbage, barbecue grills and compost pits. All those things are readily available food sources for bears. Once bears get access to human dry foods, that’s when they become predictable and dangerous and that is usually when we have to come in and remove them,” he said. “Everyone wants to be the first on the block to have the bear in their yard and so they will throw food out for the bears, trying to lure them to their property, but that is a very, very bad idea. We want to discourage that kind of behavior. It’s illegal and it’s not good science.”

The DEC website has many resources on how to coexist with bears and how to prevent bad behavior.

According to the website, Beck’s experience with a bear is typical where bears fear people and run away.

It explains that bears are omnivorous and will eat human and pet food when available. Bears are curious and if an action results in food, the bear will repeat it.

Some of the most common complaints about bears are raiding bird feeders and garbage cans. The DEC website says “good housekeeping” can prevent these problems.

Some of these good housekeeping recommendations include removing bird feeders for the entire summer.

Spierto said removing the feeders at night is not enough.

“Bears don’t have watches so they eat when they are hungry and just the fact that you bring your bird feeder in at night, the ground still smells like bird seed and that will put you on his list to stop. Our advice is do not feed birds in the summertime. Wait until there is snow on the ground and then if you want to put bird feeders out, go ahead but remember to remove them by April 1 because the bears will be coming out of their dens and they will be hungry,” he said.

Other recommendations are not to leave garbage cans outside and clean them frequently with ammonia, bleach or Lysol all smells which bears dislike. It is also suggested that pets not be fed outside and grills be cleaned after every use and not be left outside.

Ways to repel bears from garbage and yards include putting cleaner-soaked rags in the garbage, bagging all garbage to mask the smell and leaving a light or radio on at night.

For more information, go to www.dec.ny.gov/animals/6960.html.