After multiple black bear sightings over the past month in several parts of Wisconsin, the state Department of Natural Resources is reminding residents to take steps to prevent bear encounters.
This time of year usually has more bear sightings, according to Randy Johnson, large carnivore specialist for the DNR. This is because early summer is when young bears first strike out on their own and when male bears search for a mate.
And, while black bears are commonly found in northern Wisconsin, populations have been increasing and making their way south during the past decade, the DNR said. The DNR estimates that the total bear population is around 24,000.
This year's number of bear sightings isn't unusual, according to Johnson, and is the result of "favorable available habitat and science-based wildlife management."
Black bears spotted in June from Franklin to Crivitz
On Tuesday, the Fox Crossing Police Department posted that a bear had been sighted on Susan Avenue and O'Hauser Park in the village.
The Winnebago County Sheriff's Office posted a bear alert Sunday on social media after a black bear was spotted near Omro and Winneconne.
In Brown County, the village of Hobart reported several bear sightings on June 22 in the Indian Trails neighborhood.
The DNR said that bears were seen as far south as Waukesha and Washington counties, outside of the region where black bears typically live.
Multiple media reports also showed a viral video of a DNR game warden dragging a bear that had broken into a Crivitz cabin on June 19.
And, in late May, a bear attacked a couple inside a Medford home. While their children slept, the man and woman fought back against a bear with a kitchen knife and a gun.
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While spotting a bear near your home can be exciting, bears can also knock over trash cans and destroy gardens in search of food.
"Bears destroying bird feeders is the number one nuisance call to the DNR every year," Johnson said. He also said that the danger lies in bears becoming accustomed to humans as a food source.
If a bear is near your home, the DNR advises you to do the following:
Wave your arms and make noise to try to scare it away.
Ensure the bear has an adequate escape route and you are not cornering it.
Back away slowly and seek a safe location until the bear leaves.
The DNR also says to never approach a bear — especially not a mother with cubs — and, for one's own safety, avoid attempting to break up a fight between a pet and a bear.
The DNR also recommends removing all potential sources of bear food from backyards. This means hanging bird feeders at least 10 feet from the ground, thoroughly cleaning grills and outdoor tables, and keeping food garbage indoors until trash pickup day.
For more information on what to do during a bear encounter, DNR suggests taking a look at its "Living with Black Bears in Wisconsin" pamphlet.
For extra help during bear encounters, the USDA Wildlife Services offers a toll-free line at 1-800-433-0663 for southern Wisconsin and 1-800-228-1368 for northern Wisconsin.
Kelli Arseneau and Paul A. Smith of the Journal-Sentinel contributed to this report.
This article originally appeared on Appleton Post-Crescent: DNR asks Wisconsin residents to look out for black bears during the summer