Tips for avoiding trouble with bears

PATTERSON, La. -- With November being a high foraging time for Louisiana black bears, St. Mary residents, especially those living close to wooded areas south of the railroad tracks in Patterson, are urged to follow several precautions, according to Catherine Siracusa, St. Mary Parish black bear conflict officer:

—Be vigilant with garbage. Use a bear-proof can and double bag organic waste including food and diapers. If the can latch doesn’t work, secure the can in a garage or use a strap on the can.

—Designate one bag and can for food items. Put it out at the last minute.

—Rinse garbage cans once a week with bleach or ammonia. A bear’s sense of smell is much stronger than a dog’s or human’s sense. Also remember that both city and parish ordinances forbid leaving cans at the curb.

—Pick up bird feeders as well as pet food at night. Do not leave plastic containers holding pet food outdoors, even if they close.

A bear will literally walk down the street and knock down garbage cans, Siracusa said. The bear then takes food back into the woods where it’s safe to eat. Bears make a bigger mess doing this than other wild animals.

Areas closest to the wood line are hot spots for bear activity, but everything south of U.S. 90 in Patterson will be as active as their foraging activity continues to increase toward the winter. Bears like to travel under cover where they’re not seen well if possible, she said.

“It’s precautionary things. It’s not a fool proof system … it does help keep them out of residential areas”

Anyone experiencing problems with bears near homes may call Siracusa at 1-800-442-2511.

Her organization does not come out and immediately trap bears.

First they will look at the pattern to see what attracts him and what can be removed to solve the problem. If this is not done, another bear likely will take the offender’s place, she said.

Once all of this is done, or if the bear is a repeat offender or a danger, then the bear will be trapped and removed, she said.

An example of success in controlling bears is at Kemper Williams Park near Patterson which is now three years bear-free.

Bears used to walk right by campers, take a garbage bag and go back into the woods. Once the park worked with the conflict officer to set up rules and enforce them, the bears learned there was not any reward for their activity, she said.

“Kemper Williams is a very good example that does work,” Siracusa said.

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