ALBANY, N.Y. (WWTI) — Officials are warning of an increased risk of bear conflicts this spring. According to the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), bears are now emerging from their dens across New York’s “bear country.”

The DEC said that humans in the Upstate New York region may unknowingly create potential food sources for bears, which can attract them into close proximity to residential areas and result in conflicts. Additionally, bears were noted as “opportunistic feeders” and will remember where they find easy food, then return to that location frequently, leading them to become “food-conditioned.”

When a bear is food-conditioned, they may become bolder in their efforts, increasing the risks for human-bear conflicts, and are also significantly more likely to be hit by cars and shot illegally.

Considering these habits, residents and visitors are urged to take the following steps:

  • Remove bird feeders in early April
  • Keep sealed garbage cans inside a study building and mask odors
  • Remove grease cans from grills after every use
  • Do not place food outside
  • Feed pets indoors
  • Do not operate refrigerators or freezers outside or on porches

Below is an additional list of tips for campers in New York:

  • Keep campsites clean
  • Do not leave coolers or food out or in your tent
  • Treat toiletries as food items
  • Clean up after all meals immediately
  • Do not put greases, garbage, plastic, diapers, cans, bottles, or other refuse into the fireplace

According to the DEC, it is illegal to intentionally feed black bears. Indirect feeding of black bears is unlawful after a written warning has been issued by the DEC.