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Bear sightings on the rise throughout area

By Joleen Ferris

(WKTV) - Bart Colwell of New Hartford was driving along Higby Road around 1:30 p.m. Wednesday  when he stopped for what he thought was a dog.

"Couple cars coming in the opposite direction. They were slowing down, also. Bear very casually walked right across and went into the woods on the other side," says Colwell. 

Colwell isn't alone. On Tuesday, someone reported to the New York State Department Conservation that a black bear was seen near the woods on Hubbardton Road in New Hartford. 

Wednesday morning, there was a possible sighting near a ravine by the 11th hole at Utica's Valley View Golf Course.

People living in Boonville were shocked to see a black bear on their deck, eating from a bird feeder.  The bear avoided the stairs, opting instead to belly flop over the railing.

"We always want folks to remember, it's not bird feeding, it's wildlife feeding," says Steve Heerkens of the DEC.

Heerkens warns that bears have a keen sense of smell.  And while it's usually the desire to find a mate that brings them out of the woods this time of year, they're not going to disregard any food they encounter along the way.

"If you've got a barbecue grill, burn off any excess fats or food that might be on there. Keep those clean, because we have had a couple instances this year where people have had barbecue grills knocked over and pulled off of porches and things," says Heerkens. 

Heerkens also warns: Do not store pet or human food on screened in porches.

"A bear will just push a screen in and jump in and get that stuff," says Heerkens.

In terms of safety, Heerkens, who's chased away countless bears over the years, says they're more afraid of you than you are of them, and if you simply make noise, they're likely to scurry off.

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