D E C banner
D E C banner

Disclaimer

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has added a link to a translation service developed by Microsoft Inc., entitled Bing Translator, as a convenience to visitors to the DEC website who speak languages other than English.

Additional information can be found at DEC's Language Assistance Page.

Procedures Guide for Public Campground Bear Problems (File #131)

Policy

Bear problems at public campgrounds can be minimized, and possibly eliminated, through the adoption of preventive management practices. Consequently, the need to physically remove or displace bears from public campgrounds also can be brought to a minimum. The following Department of Environmental Conservation policy is intended to achieve public understanding of wildlife resource values, minimize the occurrence of bear problems at public campgrounds, and provide uniform response to bear problems when they occur.

  1. Wildlife is an integral part of the forest environment and observations of wildlife in their habitats should enrich the outdoor recreation experience at public campgrounds.
  2. Education efforts at campgrounds will continue to be directed to increase campers awareness and appreciation of both the forest wildlife and the importance of following campground regulations to ensure an enjoyable wildlife experience compatible with the Forest Preserve.
  3. Campground regulations and management procedures will be implemented to minimize the likelihood of conflicts with wildlife, including black bears.
  4. Campgrounds are categorized in two classes depending on the level of the seriousness of bear problems. Each class provides progressive measures that will be taken to address individual black bear incidents. See File #131.1.
    Class #1 Campgrounds with chronic or serious recent bear problems.
    Class #2 Campgrounds with no serious recent or frequent bear problems but that are located in an area where bear problems could easily start due to the close proximity to bear populations.

Procedures

The following procedures shall guide the execution of this policy: Procedural details that are more specific shall be prepared by the organizational units with respective responsibilities.

  1. Food and Refuse: Manage camper food and refuse in a manner which minimizes its accessibility to bears.
    1. All campgrounds, including centrally located refuse recycling centers and any other equipment, must be kept clean and maintained in operational condition each day; this includes all other garbage containers temporarily in use. (All containers may not be bear proof).
      1. Garbage will not be left outside any recycling center after dark.
      2. Procedures shall be developed to handle refuse when recycle centers are closed. Generally, garbage generated after centers are closed should be placed in the trunk of the camper's car, or covered in their car with all windows completely rolled up until the recycling center reopens.
    2. Food lockers will be installed and kept clean at public campgrounds where appropriate, based upon documented problems. Where lockers are not installed, food will be placed in the trunk of the camper's car, or covered in their car with all windows completely rolled up.
    3. Remind all campers and day-use people entering the public campsite how to properly store their food and how to take care of garbage and recyclables.
    4. Where food lockers are not available, campsite food should be stored in the locked trunk of a motor vehicle or covered in the car with all the windows completely rolled up.
    5. Enforce bear-related regulations. Campers directly feeding bears will be ticketed and expelled.
    6. If the above procedures and bear management are ineffective, then temporary food lockers should be installed as soon as possible.
    7. Funds should be made available to implement bear/campground procedures.
    8. The Bureau of Wildlife will participate in all appropriate campground staff education and campground staff meetings, as requested, by the Bureau of Recreation.
  2. Camper Education: The activities involving camper education are under the general supervision of the Division of Operations, Bureau of Recreation and regional operations units. The Bureau of Wildlife provides assistance in the development of brochures, signs, campground personnel wildlife training programs, bear-related campground regulations, and management procedures.
    1. Educate each camper group concerning the guidelines for minimizing black bear problems at public campgrounds. Bear brochures will be updated as needed.
    2. Every camper entering a Class #1 campground will receive the NYSDEC NOTIFICATION BEAR WARNING AND GUIDELINES along with instructions to read the guidelines and sign that they agree to follow them as a condition of their use of the facility.
      Every camper group entering a Class #2 campground should be able to receive bear information and guidelines upon request.
    3. Signs stating bear-related campground guidelines and regulations will be placed on the locations of the centralized bear-proof refuse/recycling centers and latrines. An informative brochure (OPFU) poster will be developed and displayed at all campgrounds.
    4. Evening interpretive programs incorporating black bear management information will be conducted at public campgrounds experiencing bear problems. Contact regional wildlife manager.
  3. Handling Bear Incidents:The activities which involve the handling of bear problems are under the supervision of the Division of Fish and Wildlife, Bureau of Wildlife and regional units. Bureau of Recreation campground personnel cooperate in the initial assessment of bear problem incidents using criteria and forms prepared by the bureau.
    1. Investigate all campground bear problems and complete an evaluation form for each incident.
    2. Campground bear problems are classed by seriousness. Response actions are determined by evaluation of: 1) seriousness of incident; 2) frequency of incident occurrence; and 3) involvement of provocation.
    3. Follow prescribed action for the type of bear problem encountered and indicate on back of evaluation form the actions taken, dates, and personnel involved.
    4. Problems that are imagined or lack seriousness require no immediate internal communication; however, complete an evaluation form for each incident. Apply immediate corrective measures such as: 1) advise campers how to improve their handling of food and garbage; or 2) inform campers that merely seeing a bear is not a real problem.
    5. For problems with a degree of seriousness, timely internal communications are important. Follow these steps:
      1. Call the Regional Operations Supervisor or his designated representative to convey your report or request for assistance to the Regional Wildlife Manager.
      2. When the Regional Operations Supervisor or the regional Operations Unit Office cannot be reached, call the Regional Wildlife Manger.
      3. When the Regional Wildlife Manager or regional Wildlife Unit Office cannot be reached, call the designated Regional Operations Supervisor at home. If they are unavailable, call the designated Regional Wildlife Manager or his designated representative at home.
      4. Regardless of who is finally notified, all requests should be brought to the attention of the regional Operations Unit as soon as possible, who will in turn, notify the regional Wildlife Unit.
    6. Alternative methods for handling problem bears shall be used by the regional Wildlife Unit when deemed appropriate by the Regional Wildlife Manager. A portion or all of the campground may be closed when certain alternative methods are used. Methods may include electrically energized objects, rubber projectiles, pepper spray, noisemakers, use of trained hounds, and motion detection. Negative conditioning of trapped bears will be done outside the camping area unless approved by the Regional Operations Supervisor and the Regional Wildlife Manager. Responsible department personnel, properly trained, may be authorized to use alternative methods with approval from regional supervisors.
    7. Bear problems at public campgrounds lacking centralized refuse recycling centers, bear-proof garbage dumpster-containers, should be handled in the same way as campgrounds with the containers; however, an order of priority based on degree of problem seriousness, may be used by the regional Wildlife Unit when responding.
    8. Culvert traps may be set only under authorization from the Regional Wildlife Manager or his designated representative; until then, the traps must be kept closed and locked. Once traps are set, the campground facility supervisor personnel must check them frequently and immediately contact the designated regional Wildlife Unit person when a bear is captured. The regional Wildlife Unit is responsible for the release of each bear. All captured bears will be tagged (color-coded and radio collared as appropriate).
  4. Definition of Problems:
    1. Human Injury
      Bodily injury requiring medical attention, inflicted by a bear.
    2. Unprovoked Attack
      Attack by a bear that is not protecting its cubs, being fed, or being chased by campers or their dogs.
    3. Human Threat
      A person chased, cornered (treed) or scared by a bear. An imagined threat differs from a real threat in that a person is merely frightened by the presence of a bear.
    4. Property Damage
      Serious: Bear has forced its way into motor vehicle, camper, or travel trailer by breaking glass or bending metal; damage to interior. Bear has entered and destroyed tent.
      Moderate:Bear attempted entry into motor vehicle, camper, travel trailer, or tent, but without success; may be scratched paint or ripped tent.
      Minor:Bear damaged minor property such as picnic coolers, cooking utensils, food, and its containers.
  5. Definition of Actions to Bears:
    1. Removal: Bear will be relocated at least 30 miles (preferably 50 miles or more) away from campground into an area where it is unlikely to encounter campers or hikers. If the bear is a female with dependent young of the year cubs, every feasible attempt will be made to locate and capture the cubs to be relocated with sow (if possible) or rehabilitated and returned to the wild.
    2. Permanent Removal: Bear will be relocated into another state or province into another bear range, at least 100 miles away or permanently kept in captivity or destroyed as determined appropriate by the Bureau of Wildlife. If the bear is a female with dependent young of the year cubs, every feasible attempt will be made to locate and capture the cubs to be relocated with sow, held in captivity with the sow or rehabilitated and returned to the wild as determined appropriate by the Bureau of Wildlife.
  6. Evaluation of Problems:
    1. Investigate immediately: Interview complainant, inspect site of incident and complete an evaluation form.
    2. Record supporting evidence: injury - bite marks, scratch marks, bruises, torn clothing, torn sleeping bag; threat - bear claw marks on tree climbed by complainant; bear tracks, hair, or scat.
    3. Record contrary evidence ie, bait.
    4. Get statements: witnesses, medical personnel.
    5. Record all property damaged and get estimated value from camper.
    6. Record apparent cause of problem.
  7. Actions for Problems
    Problem: Human injury inflicted during an unprovoked attack.
    1. Immediate Action:
      1. Try to discourage bear (yell or other loud noise).
      2. Call an Environmental Conservation Officer, Forest Ranger, State Police Officer, or local Police Officer.
      3. Administer first aid and call medical assistance via regular campground emergency procedure.
      4. Bear may be killed when department personnel witness an attack.
    2. Action After an Attack:
      1. Call the Regional Wildlife Manager through the Regional Operations Supervisor immediately after confirming attack, injury, and any provocation.
      2. If attack was provoked, people responsible for the provocation shall be expelled from the campground and the Regional Wildlife Manager and Regional Operations Supervisor will determine if the bear shall be negatively conditioned.
      3. If the attack was unprovoked:
        1. Set trap as soon as possible.
        2. Call the designated regional Wildlife Unit person immediately after any bear is captured. If a positive identification can be made, the bear will be permanently removed. All other bears captured will be tagged and released at or near the campground or removed if deemed appropriate, by the regional Wildlife Unit.
        3. Close and remove trap if after seven days, no bear has been captured and no further incidents have occurred.
    3. Action After Further Attacks
      Call the Regional Wildlife Manager through the Regional Operations Supervisor immediately after second injury and campground or portion of campground will be closed, as appropriate for the regional Wildlife Unit to remove bears and regional Operations Unit to clean campground.
  8. Problem: Human Threat
    1. Immediate Action
      1. Call the Regional Wildlife Manager through the Regional Operations Supervisor immediately after:
        1. Two real threats and the regional Wildlife Unit will determine if a trap should be set to identify, negatively condition, and possibly relocate the offending bear.
        2. Five consecutive days of imagined threat and Bureau of Wildlife will speak to frightened campers.
      2. In cases of imagined threat, advise campers: the threat is not real and to keep the campsite free of attractants.
      3. Call the designated regional Wildlife Unit person immediately after any bear is captured. If positive identification can be made, the bear will be removed from the campground unless this is not the first problem involving this bear. Any bear identified as being involved in two or more problems of unprovoked human threat or serious property damage during the current camping season shall be permanently removed. All other captured bears will be tagged with color-coded ear tags and released at or near the campground.
      4. Close and remove trap, if after seven days no bear has been captured and no further incidents have occurred.
      5. Call the Regional Wildlife Manager through the Regional Operations Supervisor immediately if after capture of one bear the threats continue. Part or all of campground will be closed, as appropriate, for the regional Wildlife Unit to remove bears and regional Operations Unit to clean campground.
  9. Problem:Property Damage
    1. Immediate Action
      1. Call the Regional Wildlife Manager through the Regional Operations Supervisor immediately after:
        1. One serious property damage incident.
        2. Two consecutive days moderate property damage incidents.
        3. Three consecutive days minor property damage incidents.
      2. Where the Regional Wildlife Manager authorized a trap to be set, call the designated regional Wildlife Unit person immediately after any bear is captured. If positive identification can be made, the bear will be removed from the campground unless this is not the first problem involving this bear. Any bear identified as being involved in two or more problems of unprovoked human threats or serious property damage during the current camping season shall be permanently removed. All other bears captured will be tagged with color-coded ear tags and released at or near the campground.
      3. Close and remove bear trap, if after seven days no bear has been captured and no further incidents have occurred.
      4. After four consecutive days of minor property damage incidents, the Bureau of Wildlife will investigate to assess why such problems are continuing and set a bear trap only under extraordinary circumstances.
      5. Call the Regional Wildlife Manager through the Regional Operations Supervisor immediately if after capture of one bear the property damage continues. Part or all of campground will be closed, as appropriate, for the regional Wildlife Unit to remove bears and regional Operations Unit to clean campground.

Campground facility supervisor personnel will try to educate complainants by reviewing with them the procedures for proper care of food, refuse, and recyclables; allow only one warning on following guidelines, then expel uncooperative campers from campground.

  • Contact for this Page
  • NYSDEC
    Division of Operations
    625 Broadway
    Albany, NY 12233-5253
    518-457-2500
    Send us an email
  • This Page Covers
  • Page applies to all NYS regions