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What to do if you meet a bear? Remain calm .. and talk


Bear encounters are common in North Central Massachusetts this time of the year. Knowing how to react in those situations is important — for the safety of both the human and the bear, says Marion Larson, MassWildlife’s education chief.

Here are three scenarios in which people may enounter bears — and how the experts say people should handle them.


As hiking season has begun, hikers shouldn’t be surprised to spot bears on or near trails in the region. When they do, people should remain calm and not do anything to startle the bear, Larson said.

“If they encounter a bear when they are out and about, the best thing to do is to speak to the bear because the bear will figure out it is a person and become alarmed,” she said. “People should remain calm.”

Mile Morelly, a MassWildlife wildlife biologist, said to avoid any close interaction with bears. He suggests people constantly carry on conversations during hikes or attach small bells to their gear to create constant noise.

“Make your presence known,” he said. “Let them know you are coming.”

Larson said the sounds of humans often make the bears vanish from the noise.

“Generally they see people as a threat and that is a good thing,” Larson said.

She said if people are hiking with their pets, the hikers should have their pets on a tight leash and keep them supervised.

Morelly said he has never personally carried bear pepper spray with him, but he said if it helps people feel comfortable while hiking, it is an option. However, he did warn people of its size. Bear pepper spray is about as big as a fire extinguisher, Morelly said.


Get rid of your bacon grease.

Morelly said bears love visiting campgrounds where there is bacon grease.

“Don’t dump your bacon grease next to the fire pit,” he said. “Put it out in the fire or in a glass jar.”

Bears will roam campsites if there is readily available food — mostly trash that isn’t concealed, Morelly said.

But also food that hasn’t yet been eaten.

“We make strong suggestions to people who are camping to secure their food in vehicles and not to have food in the tents,” Larson said. “They should do a real good job of cleaning things up. They shouldn’t be leaving coolers unattended.”

Or bacon grease.


Bears often make visits to residential neighborhoods. Morelly said the number-one reason is birdfeeders, and knowing they have readily available food without working to get it.

“They don’t look for natural food sources when they have (birdfeeders) at their disposal,” he said.

He encourages people to bring in their birdfeeders when it isn’t winter.

If a bear does wander outside your home, Morelly and Larson said the same thing: Make the bear uncomfortable with noise.

“We suggest people stepping outside a lot of times and making noise banging pots and pans,” Larson said. “That is the language you use to say, ‘Hey, this is my territory.’ It serves to remind them that people are a threat.

“If you don’t do anything, they won’t know you want them off your property,” she added.

Also, like while hiking, keep an eye on your pets.

“Any pet that is allowed to wander unsupervised is at risk for a whole lot of things,” Larson said. “Bears may not really care a lot of the time because they are so large, but (people) should have their pets under control.”

Morelly said he has received calls recently from gardeners who have issues with bears near their yard while working. He advised having a radio on or whistle with you while gardening, which should make a bear uncomfortable and leave.