Be black bear SMART from start of spring

Remove food sources like bird feeders to avoid conflicts with black bears. (Courtesy/Michigan DNR)

Remove food sources like bird feeders to avoid conflicts with black bears. (Courtesy/Michigan DNR)

LANSING -- Bear observations and encounters are more likely to occur during the spring and summer months, while bears forage for food. Most wild animals are generally fearful of humans and will leave if they are aware of your presence.

If you encounter a bear in your yard or on a trail, remain calm and be bear SMART:

S -- Stand your ground. Do not run or play dead.

M -- Make loud noises and back away slowly.

A -- Always provide a clear, unobstructed escape route for the bear.

R -- Rarely do bears attack, if they do, fight back.

T -- Treat bears with respect and observe them from a distance.

Reduce the risk of encountering a bear by removing food sources from your property and enjoying the outdoors responsibly in areas where bears are found. Despite the abundance of natural food available in the spring and summer, human-provided food sources often are an easy meal for these opportunistic feeders.

"Every year we receive numerous reports of bears eating from bird feeders, garbage cans, grills and camp sites," said Cody Norton, Michigan Department of Natural Resources large carnivore specialist.

"Leaving food accessible to bears is problematic for the bear and the community. Once a bear has found a food source, it will continue to return in search of meal, and while you may enjoy seeing the bear, your neighbor may not. Bears that rely on human food sources often encounter people, causing them to lose their natural fear of humans."

Many of the annually reported bear conflicts are from urban and residential communities in northern Michigan, where there are numerous homes with bird feeders and accessible garbage cans and pet foods. If you live in a residential community, consider sharing the Bear SMART tips throughout the neighborhood to prevent bear conflicts.

Additionally, chickens, beehives and other small livestock can attract the attention of a bear. To keep coops and beehives secured, install an electric fence or store in an enclosed area.

"Removing food sources and knowing what to do in a bear encounter is the best way to avoid conflict and coexist with bears," Norton said. "Those of us who live and recreate in the bear range share the responsibility of avoiding activities that create potential bear problems."

For more information on how to handle conflicts with wildlife, visit Michigan.gov/Wildlife.