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Be Wary of all Bears, not Just Grizzly

In the wake of the brutal – and quite rare -- grizzly bear attack at Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming this week, it might be reassuring to readers that there are no grizzly bears in the woods of Connecticut or New York State.

However, with the growth of the black bear population in our region, it's worthwhile to go over some precautions when confronted with them in the wild. While black bears, whose populations have grown and who have been spotted in suburban areas foraging for food, are generally afraid of human beings, they are large mammals who are capable of incurring damage to a human being, particularly if that human has gotten in between a mama bear and her cubs.

According to the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection website, "Black bears are generally shy and secretive and usually fearful of humans. However, if they regularly find food near houses and areas of human activity, they can lose their fear of humans. Unlike grizzly bears, black bears are seldom aggressive toward humans."

But if you are a hiker, cyclist, jogger or anyone who plans to spend time in the woods, whether in a state park or your back yard, here are some tips from the DEP in the event you encounter one:

• If the bear is not paying any attention to you, slowly and quietly back away while watching the bear to make sure it isn't following.

• Do not approach the bear to get a better look.

• If the bear knows you are there, raise your arms to let it know you are a human. Make yourself look as big as possible. Speak in a firm but non-threatening voice while looking at the bear and backing away.

• Watch the bear to gauge its reaction to you. Generally, the noisier the bear is, the less dangerous it is, providing you don't approach the bear. If a bear huffs, pops its jaw or stomps its paws on the ground, it wants you to back away and give it space. By all means, oblige.

• If a bear closely approaches you, drop any food you are carrying and continue backing up.

• If the bear continues to try to approach, stand your ground and be aggressive -- use a whistle or air horn, yell, stand tall, wave your arms and throw objects.

• Do not run or climb a tree. Bears can run faster and climb better than you.

Have you ever seen a bear in your neck of the woods?

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