Bears In Residential Areas

North Carolina’s human population is increasing and many new homes are built in occupied bear range each year. Due to the adaptable nature of bears and improved management by wildlife agencies, black bear populations are increasing and bear range is expanding in North Carolina.

As a result, bears and people are coming into contact with each other more frequently. Many citizens of  North Carolina wish to see bears continue to thrive in the state. The challenge is to learn how problems with bears can be avoided in residential areas that are in or near bear habitat.

How to prevent and/or resolve bear conflicts:


  1. Do not feed bears! Feeding bears rewards them for coming into residential areas. Bears feeding on unnatural food sources around your home may lose their fear of humans and will be more likely to approach people – a situation that rarely ends well for the bear and could have potential safety issues for humans as well!

    These cubs are learning to rely
    on humans for food and may
    approach people as adults.
  2. Remove or secure all potential food sources!
    1. Store garbage inside buildings or other areas that bears cannot get to.
    2. If the area is served by a garbage collection service, place garbage and recyclables out only during the day of collection.
    3. Purchase bear-proof garbage cans or bear-proof your existing garbage container by outfitting it with a secure latching system.

      Unsecured garbage cans can attract bears.
  3. Do not leave pet foods out overnight. If pets are fed outside remove any excess food after the animals have finished eating. Never store pet food on a porch or in an open garage where a bear can get to it.
  4. Clean outdoor grills. After you use an outdoor grill clean it thoroughly and make sure that all grease and fat residues are removed.
  5. Compost piles attract bears. Although there usually isn’t much food available in a compost pile the odor is enough to draw the interest of a curious bear. Avoid putting pasta or oils in a compost pile.
  6. Remove bird feeders and hummingbird feeders if bears are in area.
    1. Do not hang bird feeders from your house or deck.
    2. Suspend feeder from a free-hanging wire away from your home, making sure it is at least 10 feet off the ground and at least 10 feet away from the trunk of a tree.
    3. Bring bird feeders indoors at night.

      Credit: Colorado DOW
  7. Make bird feeder inaccessible to bears:
  8. Alert neighbors of the bear and ensure that no one is intentionally or unintentionally feeding black bears. One person feeding bears can create a problem bear that may affect the entire neighborhood.
  9. Repellents. There are no repellents that are registered for use on bears. Some have found that sprinkling ammonia or other strong disinfectants on garbage can mask the odor of food.
  10. Exclusion:
    1. Make sure dumpsters are bolted and locked and chain down heavy metal garbage cans and secure the lids.
    2. Wood or plastic dumpster lids do not keep bears out. Replace these with metal lids that can be locked and make sure sliding side doors can be latched so only humans can open them.
    3. Fencing in dumpsters or garbage collection areas can be very effective. A chain link fence with a barbwire overhang can work well. An electric fence powered with a high voltage, low impedance charger can exclude bears; however, this should only be done if safety precautions can be implemented to protect children and adults. There are several electric fence designs which can be provided by the local district biologist if this is deemed appropriate.
  11. Frightening or scaring the bear. Shouting, clapping, blasting a car horn or motion­sensitive lights may scare off a bear temporarily. Do not taunt a bear if it fails to respond to your efforts to frighten it. These methods are only temporary solutions.
  12. Crowd Control. Sometimes when a bear sighted, crowds may gather. This seemingly harmless situation can be aggravated or became potentially harmful as the crowd grows. People can cause bears to display unpredictable behavior. Law enforcement personnel should disperse crowds and allow the bear to exit without interference.