How to be bear aware in suburbia

May 28, 2015, 1 p.m.

Better safe than sorry!

Black bears are more abundant now than they have been in decades, and they have even become part of the web of urban wildlife around some suburban towns. In fact, a bear was captured just last week in Yonkers, near the Bronx in New York. This increasing proximity to humans has lead to some human-bear interactions that can be a little on the frightening side. Black bears are big, strong, wild animals that deserve respect and space, and many interactions happen because of human behavior. If you want to avoid having a close encounter -- especially with a mother bear protecting her cubs as she looks for food -- then follow a few simple rules:

1. Never feed bears. Ever. Even if you don't feed them on purpose, you may be feeding them accidently. Secure trash can lids and cover up compost bins, clean up birdseed, and clear out fallen fruit and overripe vegetables from the garden. Don't use outdoor refrigerators or freezers to store food, and be sure you keep your car clean of food as well. Clearing away food sources is one of the easiest ways to keep bears away.

2. Be alert when barbecuing, since humans aren't the only ones drawn in to the picnic table by the smell of roasting meat. Be sure to thoroughly clean your grill of any grease and scraps when you're done barbecuing, or better yet, remove the grill and store it in a secure place.

3. Keep pets inside at night, and do not leave any pet food outside.

4. Promote the use of bear-resistant dumpsters in community areas such as picnic grounds, play grounds, sporting fields and other areas.

5. If you are inside and see a bear in your front or back yard, you may be tempted to stand and watch. However, remember this is a large wild animal that is exploring your yard for food. The best thing you can do for yourself and for the bear's long-term safety is to scare it away by loudly banging pots and pans, blowing an air horn or whistle, or other loud noises that will frighten it out of the yard and hopefully discourage it from coming back.

6. Consider installing electric fencing around trash can storage sheds, compost bins or piles, or simply around your entire yard to keep bears from coming in or getting at food sources.

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Jaymi Heimbuch is a writer and photographer at Mother Nature Network. Follow her on Twitter, Google+ and Facebook.