There seems to have been an increase in bear sightings throughout the Mohawk Valley in local metro areas, is alarming local residents and conservation officials.

Recently there have been bear sightings in New Hartford, Herkimer, Ilion and Utica - an accordance that used to happen maybe only once or twice a year. Now, bear sightings in residential areas seem to have increased for some reason, and the Department of Conservation warns people to stay away if you see a bear, especially if it's a bear cub.

The DEC is running a campaign currently urging local residents to be "Bear-Wise" as the population seems to be increasing.

According to the DEC, "Bears will readily utilize human-created food sources and repeat access can make bears bolder. This can lead to an increase in human-bear conflicts around homes and residential areas, especially when natural food sources are scarce. Feeding bears intentionally is illegal

The BearWise campaign is designed to educate local Upstate NY residents about bear behavior, and ways to avoid attracting them.

"The BearWise educational campaign was developed by bear biologists and is supported by state wildlife agencies to promote the delivery of standardized messaging to the public on living responsibly with black bears. DEC is a cooperating state wildlife agency of the BearWise campaign. Learn how to live responsibly with black bears by practicing the BearWise basics at home and the BearWise safety tips when recreating outdoors."

The DEC recommends that people avoid human-bear contact and the way to start is with prevention. Here are some tips from the DEC:

•Never feed or approach bears(link is external)

•Secure food, garbage and recycling(link is external)

•Remove bird feeders when bears are active(link is external)

•Never leave pet food outdoors(link is external)

•Clean and store grills and smokers(link is external)

•Alert neighbors to bear activity(link is external)

The DEC recommends the following BearWise Safety Tips

Remember, black bears have a natural fear of humans, however, when confronted they can act or become aggressive if surprised, approached, or become emboldened by human food sources. Follow these BearWise safety tips to help keep yourself, pets, livestock, apiaries, and bears safe in bear country(link is external).

•What to do and how to behave if you see a bear(link is external)

•How to keep bears out of homes and businesses(link is external)

•How to keep your dog safe in bear country(link is external)

•How to hike, camp, and fish safely in bear country(link is external)

•How to hunt safely in bear country(link is external)

•How to have a bear-safe vacation(link is external)

•How to protect your livestock, bees, crops, and orchards from bears(link is external)

•How and when to use bear spray

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