As the drought continues despite some rainy relief, wildlife has taken unusual measures to seek food and drink, increasing conflicts with humans. Coyotes have taken small dogs, sometimes in broad daylight. Bears, which usually venture out in the darkness of night, are now frequently seen in the daylight hours.
“On August 10, my mother-in-law, Judy Eckert, was outside watering her tomato plant when this coyote just walked up and took her little dog,” said Gigi Salvucci, who lives in Woodstock. Eckert lives in the Jockey Hill area.
“By the time I got there, and I called the police, it was too late,” she said. “It’s devastating.” A woman on Rymrock Road also had her dog taken, Salvucci said. “I’ve been so upset about it because nobody put up signs or did anything.”
Salvucci, together with her husband and mother-in-law had about ten yard signs made at Timely Signs that warn of coyotes in the area killing dogs and cats. She said her mother-in-law has lived on Jockey Hill Road for 55 years and has had many dogs and cats and never had any of them taken by a coyote.
A post on Facebook said people need to be aware because they live in the country.
“We all know that, but they don’t normally just come out on a sunny day and take your little animal out of the yard,” Salvucci said in response.
Keeping garbage secure minimizes conflict
Department of Environmental Conservation Wildlife Tech Chris Plummer said the most important thing to do is avoid leaving food sources around where animals can access them.
“Probably the most important thing with bears — I guess coyotes as well, generally, any wildlife — is not having any kind of a attractant around for it,” Plummer said. “They’re very food-motivated animals. So things like garbage, bird feeders, your grill, your compost…those kinds of things are real attractive for bears…So having those types of things locked up…you can put your garbage in a shed or garage, if you have that. If not, you can ratchet strap it down and not bring it out to the curb until your day of pickup. You really want to keep your garbage real locked up and tight, so the bears aren’t able to use that as a food source.”
Death of cats, small dogs starts with other food sources
“A lot of times people have bird feeders, and that attracts smaller animals, which also attracts those predators to the area. They’re on the landscape all the time and looking for food. So if you have attracted other prey, you’d be likely to draw in a predator more so than if you didn’t have that,” Plummer said.
Removing grease from your barbecue grill after use and keeping it in the garage will help.
Placing ammonia-soaked rags in the garbage bins will help mask the garbage scent if you cannot keep them inside, Plummer said.
“And we recommend people don’t feed their pets outside. Any kind of food waste outside is an invitation for bears to come and get into it. And once they learn that behavior, it’s much, much harder to get them to stop,” he said. “That’s when they start to go to extreme measures to actually try and get it like breaking into your garage or shed or something…So if you start with good housekeeping practices, you’re way better off at avoiding any kind of conflict in the future.”
Bears learn by association and have an excellent memory, so take measures to discourage them from returning.
“If you’re starting to have a bear that’s hanging around your property and it’s trying to get into your trash and you see it, we recommend harassing the bear and making it feel really uncomfortable when it’s on your property. Don’t let it hang out,” Plummer said.
“You shouldn’t be afraid of the bear. They’re not going to attack you unless they feel threatened and cornered. Basically, they’re going to try and escape any way possible. Unless they can’t, then they’ll defend themselves. So we recommend harassing the bear with noise,” he said.
“A lot of times, air horns work really well. You get an air horn and blast it at the bear and yell at it or bang on pots and pans. That’s something you might have on hand already. And kind of follow it off your property until it’s gone, so it knows that you know where its boundaries are. It’ll kind of learn that over time.”
In addition to having an air horn on hand, Plummer recommends a product made by Amtek called the Critter Gitter, which emits a 120-decibel alarm sound and flashes bright lights when its motion sensor is activated. Other manufacturers make similar devices.
The bears need to be made uncomfortable, or hazed, before they learn bad behavior and it applies to other animals including coyotes, Plummer said.
A fed bear is a dead bear
Problem bears in rural areas do not get relocated, and once they learn bad behavior, it can be a death sentence.
“The only bears that get relocated are the ones found in urban settings like if one were to be in downtown Kingston or Poughkeepsie, then they would get moved,” Plummer said. “If people aren’t taking care of the garbage, the bears can make a habit out of that behavior. Sometimes they end up breaking into homes, and that is when we would respond and euthanize that bear.”
Bears are classified based on their threat. A bear that attacks or injures a person, is aggressive toward people, has attacked or killed livestock, or breaks into a home is Class 1. A bear that has damaged a home or entered another structure, such as a barn or shed is a Class 2 or 3.
Class 1 bears should be immediately euthanized per the DEC’s Black Bear Response Manual.
Class 2 bears show undesirable behavior around humans and minimal fear. Repeat Class 2 offenders may be considered for euthanasia.
Class 3 bears have altered natural foraging in favor of man-made food sources. Attempts to alter behavior may include noise-makers, electric fences, rubber buckshot and reinforced dumpster lids.
Class 4 bears are those that exhibit normal, natural behaviors.