Black Bears Conflict Solutions

It might not seem likely to encounter a bear in and around the city, but it’s certainly been known to happen!  While people don’t need to worry about catching diseases or parasites from bears, you probably don’t want one in your backyard!

The More You Know

Understand that bears are very beneficial to our ecosystem – they disperse more seeds than birds, create greater biological diversity, and break logs, which helps return nutrients to the soil.

Some people believe that hunting bears will help reduce conflicts, but studies have found this can actually have the opposite effect because bear populations rebound with the increased availability of food.  In addition, hunters will not necessarily hunt the bears causing the conflict.

To avoid any bear encounters, you can take a few simple steps:

  • If bears become a persistent problem, try removing any feeders you might have during the spring and summer (when bears are coming out of hibernation) either entirely, or at night.  Also make sure you’ve removed outdoor pet food, secured your trash, tended to compost piles, and kept your barbecue grills clean. Don’t worry – the bears will find other natural food sources!
  • Keep your feeders clean, make sure they’re mounted properly, and choose durable feeders, made from either solid metal or durable plastic.  Cage and tube feeders are more difficult for bears to access!  You can also put vinegar or ammonia on the ground around the feeder.
  • Store your birdseed indoors and choose food bears won’t be as attracted to, like safflower seed, Nyjer, or even add lots of red pepper to your birdseed mix.
  • Discourage bears from coming to your property at night by setting automatic sprinklers to run at night, installing motion sensor-operated lights, and having a strong metal fence at least six feet tall.
  • Don’t leave trash cans or recycling out overnight!  This is a valuable tip for preventing conflicts with other animals, like raccoons, as well.
black bear relaxing in the woods

Black Bear Encounters

If you do encounter a bear, do not panic!  Remember the old adage – he is probably more scared of you than you are of him.  Bears can be scared away with the following approach from HSUS:

  • Stand and face the bear directly. Never run away from or approach him.
  • Make yourself look as big as possible by spreading your arms or, better yet, a coat.
  • Make as much noise as possible by yelling, banging pots and pans or using other noisemaking devices.
  • If the bear approaches and you have bear spray, spray the bear as he approaches.
  • In the very rare case that a black bear does attack you, fight back (don’t play dead).
  • After the bear leaves, remove whatever attracted him to the location (barbecue grill, bird feeder, pet food or garbage).
black bear in grassy field

Please note: Humane Action Pittsburgh (HAP) is not a wildlife rescue and is unable to address concerns or assist with wildlife emergencies. Please utilize the resources on our website to find the appropriate organization to contact. Submissions to HAP through our contact form or email will not be able to be addressed.