Utica, NY (WIBX) - The Department of Environmental Conservation is warning residents to not feed the area's black bear population.

According to the DEC, black bears will take advantage of any unprotected food source, eventually becoming a nuisance.

To curb the problem, big game biologist Jeremy Hurst says there is a simple way to minimize black bear encounters.

"The easiest way is just to look outside your property and see what is an unnatural attractant for bears," Hurst said. "Bird seed, dirty garbage that's left or stored outside, a grill that hasn't been cleaned... these are attractants for bears."

Hurst says bird feeders and grills should be stored when not in use, and garbage should be kept contained until pick-up.

He also says that though the plan seems simple, an entire neighborhood must be on board.

"It takes a community-wide effort to address this issue," Hurst said. "One house in the neighborhood that is providing supplemental feed, even incidental or accidental, can create a problem for the whole neighborhood."

The DEC says feeding black bears, even inadvertently, is illegal and may cause conflicts between bears and people.

For more information about black bears in the area, contact the nearest regional DEC office. A list of offices can be found here.