Bear sightings are common in summer as young males roam
FRANKFORT, Ky. (June 22, 2023) – Conservation officers and biologists with the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources want to remind the public that sightings of black bears are common across Kentucky and encounters with them are possible, especially in early summer.
As young males disperse from their primary range in eastern Kentucky to establish new home ranges for themselves and search for mates, bears may be spotted on farms in rural areas, in residential areas, and occasionally within town or city boundaries virtually anywhere in the state. Sightings have recently been reported in eastern, southeastern, and southcentral Kentucky, including one recent report in southern Fayette County in the heart of the Bluegrass region.
“Young male black bears may accidentally find themselves in a more populated area without meaning to do so,” said John Hast, wildlife biologist and bear specialist with Kentucky Fish and Wildlife. “They are on their own for the first time and just discovering humans. They are generally wary of people and will keep moving to exit a populated area on their own, usually at night when humans are less active.”
There are burgeoning bear populations in both eastern Kentucky and the Ozarks region of Missouri. It is not unusual in the early summer for young male bears to wander well outside of the primary bear range in eastern Kentucky. These bears get pushed out of the areas where they were raised by older, dominant males. They may wander up to several weeks or more into unfamiliar territory in search of good habitat and prospective mates, before returning to the mountains. Bears can travel 20 miles or more in a day if undisturbed.
“Not having any idea where they are, and likely being scared with all the new sights and sounds, bears can easily get lost and wander further into a town or city instead of away,” Hast says. “People should be mindful not to engage with a bear and to remove any potential food source to encourage them to keep moving.”
Black bears have a natural fear of people and dogs, and adverse encounters are extremely rare. Kentucky Fish and Wildlife advises the public to never approach or feed a bear, which can result in a negative encounter. If you ever encounter a bear, keep a safe distance and never approach it. If you feel a bear is posing an immediate danger, call local law enforcement immediately.
Residents of an area where a bear has been spotted should secure their garbage in a garage or other building, not leave pet food outside, and clean and securely store barbecue grills. These are all best practices in general for people to prevent problems with wildlife. Also, people should not feed birds in bear range or in areas where they have been recently observed. It is a violation of Kentucky law to intentionally feed bears.
In Kentucky, hunting bears is regulated and limited to defined seasons in the established bear zones in eastern Kentucky to ensure a sustainable and healthy population.
Kentucky Fish and Wildlife maintains an extensive amount of information about black bears on its website. Go online to fw.ky.gov and search under the key words, “black bear,” or visit www.bearwise.org.