WESTERLY — If you have a bird feeder or unsecured trash outside, it may be in your best interest to bring them in.
Westerly police are urging residents to stay alert and take action to protect their families and pets after a black bear was seen in the Narragansett Avenue neighborhood and surrounding areas on Saturday, one of several reported sightings over the weekend.
Police Chief Richard Silva said there were fortunately no instances of direct contact between the bear and any humans. The bear eventually left the residential area for a more appropriate habitat, officials indicated.
“There were no issues, but we wanted to make sure the public was aware,” Silva said, referring to a post on the Westerly Police Department Facebook page over the weekend. “We encourage everyone to take precautions to make sure you are not attracting bears or other wild animals, especially during the active summer months.”
For residents in southwestern Rhode Island, black bear sightings have not been common but are also not all that unexpected, according to a spring press release from the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Protection. The agency warns that especially in the spring and early summer months, black bears in particular are more likely to tread into rural territories.
Westerly Animal Control Officer Art Smith warned in April that although sightings had not yet been reported in town, it was only a matter of time before sightings are likely to be reported in Bradford or other sections of town with woodlands.
Silva, Smith and DEM officials each warned that residents should take precautions, including limiting access to bird feeders or removing feeders altogether, especially from April through November, as well as purchasing items such as sealable garbage cans, which can also reduce access to food sources and limit scents that would attract bears, coyotes or other wildlife.
DEM officials also suggest the use of electric fences in areas with small pets, moving any livestock into barns at night, avoiding feeding pets outdoors, keeping grills and barbecue pits clean, leaving trash secure until the morning of pick-up and not including meat or sweet food scraps in compost piles.
“Black bears are generally shy and will avoid interactions with humans. However, they can become dependent on backyard food sources, if readily available, and quickly become a nuisance,” a release from the DEM said.