WILTON — Following a string of black bear sightings in the town of Wilton last year, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has again decided to shift “from an educational mode to an enforcement mode,” according to a notice posted to Wilton’s town website. The shift is due to residents’ non-compliance with direction to avoid attracting bears.
Last year bear sightings in Wilton occurred near Lake Elizabeth as well as near Timberlane Drive. The bears repeatedly went into residents’ garbage and bird feeders, and resisted attempts to chase off. By August of 2018, the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) recorded 50 nuisance bear complaints in Saratoga County, 30 of which were from Wilton that year.
According to the DEC there are currently an estimated minimum of 6,000 to 8,000 bears in areas open to hunting. 50 to 60% inhabit the Adirondack region, which includes Saratoga County.
Residents with bird feeders and other bear attractants will now receive a written warning by the DEC; failure to heed the warning will result in a ticket with a maximum penalty of $250 fine and 15 days in jail. Bear attractants include open garbage cans, household pet foods, food grills and outdoor refrigeration systems.
However, feeding bears intentionally is already illegal and a ticket-able offense, because once bears get food from humans it will continue to seek food from humans.
Wilton’s website goes on to list ways residents can avoid a warning and or ticket:
• Eliminate or secure any material that may attract bears.
• Properly store and manage garbage.
• Do not feed animals outside.
• Prevent bears from obtaining human food.
The DEC also recommends bird feeding activities cease by April 1 and resume Nov. 30. Anyone who sees a bear is asked to report it immediately to the DEC wildlife unit at 518-897-1291.