Kentucky Fish & Wildlife offers suggestions for being bear wise

FRANKFORT, Ky. (June 3, 2024) – Conservationists and biologists with the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources would like to remind the public that black bear sightings outside their primary range can occur in eastern Kentucky, especially in early summer.

As young males disperse from their primary range in the spring and summer to establish new habitats for themselves and look for mates, bears can be spotted on farms in rural areas, in residential areas and occasionally within urban areas. or city limits, virtually anywhere in the state. .

“When young males leave mountain areas, they sometimes accidentally end up in urban areas,” said John Hast, bear program coordinator. “These bears usually lie low during the day and move out at night to leave town. Letting the bear wander out of town is generally the safest approach for the bear and residents.”

There are burgeoning bear populations in both eastern Kentucky and the Ozarks region of Missouri. It is not unusual for young male bears to wander well outside primary bear territory in eastern Kentucky in early summer. These bears are pushed out of the areas where they were raised by older, dominant males. They may wander through unfamiliar territory for several weeks or longer in search of good habitat and potential mates before returning to the mountains. Bears, if left undisturbed, can travel 20 miles or more in a day.

“Because they have no idea where they are, and are likely frightened by all the new sights and sounds, bears can easily get lost and wander further into a town or city instead of away,” Hast said. “If a bear is found anywhere, especially in an urban area, people should keep their distance and remove any food sources that might encourage the bear to remain nearby.”

Black bears have a natural fear of people and dogs, and adverse encounters are extremely rare. Kentucky Fish and Wildlife advises the public to never approach or feed a bear, which could result in a negative encounter. If you ever encounter a bear, keep a safe distance and never approach it. If you think a bear poses an immediate threat, call your local police immediately.

Residents in an area where a bear has been spotted should store their trash in a garage or other building, avoid leaving pet food outside, and clean and secure barbecue grills. These are all generally best practices for people to avoid wildlife problems. Also, people should not feed birds within the range of bears or in areas where they have been recently sighted. It is a violation of Kentucky law to feed bears, or knowingly leave unsecured food available for them to consume.

In Kentucky, bear hunting is regulated and limited to certain seasons in established bear zones in eastern Kentucky to ensure a sustainable and healthy population.

Kentucky Fish and Wildlife maintains an extensive amount of information about black bears on its website. Go online to and search for the keywords “black bear,” or visit