EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — As bears make their way out of hibernation in search for food, the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) is reminding everyone to remove all potential food sources from their yards.
The DEM has received eight reported black bear sightings so far this year. Those sightings include one each in Exeter, North Smithfield and Richmond, two in West Warwick and three in South Kingstown.
Black bears are the only species native to Rhode Island, according to the DEM. While black bears typically avoid humans, the DEM said they’re not afraid to seek out any potential food sources.
With the weather getting warmer, the DEM is asking all Rhode Islanders to bring all bird feeders, unsecured trash cans, livestock feed and other easily available household and backyard food sources indoors.
“A bear can’t be blamed for riffling through a trash can, but we can certainly change our own behaviors for the safety of both the community and wildlife,” DEM spokesperson Mike Healey said. “By teaching bears that backyards are not their personal grocery stores and humans are not vending machines handing out snacks, we can keep wildlife and our communities safe.”
The DEM said bears are specifically attracted to bird feeders because they’re easily accessible.
Black bears also have the tendency to return to food sources once they’ve discovered them, which is another reason why the DEM is asking everyone to take extra precautions.
Anyone who spots a bear should report it to the DEM’s Division of Law Enforcement, which is working closely with local police departments to track sightings and educate residents.