DEC Gives Homeowners Guidance to Avoid Problems with Bears and Conflicts with Coyotes

Greater chance for encounters with bears and coyotes as spring arrives in New York

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) today issued guidance on how to prevent negative encounters with black bears and conflicts with coyotes as warmer spring temperatures approach.

Bears

Nearly all negative bear encounters in New York are the result of hungry bears being attracted to human food sources. The simplest way to avoid a nuisance encounter is to remove potential food sources.

New York is home to more than 6,000 bears that emerge from the winter denning period and need to replenish nutrients and body fat. To do so, bears may travel long distances to preferred habitats that vary from season to season. Bears must sometimes cross roads or pass through developed areas to find these habitat, and often find human foods readily accessible if homeowners do not take necessary precautions.

Bears can obtain necessary food from the forest but are intelligent and opportunistic animals that find and consume easily accessible foods including, but not limited to, bird feeders, garbage cans, dumpsters, barbeque grills, unsecured out-buildings, or vehicles containing food or waste. Once a bear learns to obtain food from people or certain structures, it is difficult to change the animal’s behavior. These bears are more vulnerable to motor vehicle collisions in populated areas, more likely to be killed, or may become a threat to public safety.

In some cases, DEC is asked to relocate these bears. However, bear relocations are rarely effective and can be dangerous. Relocated bears often return to their original capture site, or may simply continue their bad habits at a new location. Additionally, if the circumstances that led to the original problem are not corrected, other bears may be attracted to the site and conflicts will persist.

It is dangerous and illegal to intentionally feed bears. The incidental, indirect feeding of black bears, such as with bird feeders or garbage is also unlawful.

To reduce the chance of negative black bear encounters, DEC recommends:

  • Never feed bears. It is illegal, dangerous and detrimental to bears.
  • If bears are being fed in your area, or you suspect a nuisance bear situation, report it to DEC immediately.
  • Take down bird feeders after April 1. Birds do not need supplemental food in the spring and summer, when natural foods are most abundant.
  • Clean barbeque grills before nightfall and don’t forget the grease trap. If possible, store grills inside when not in use.
  • Store garbage in a secure building.
  • In areas near bear habitat, put garbage containers by the curb just before the scheduled pick-up-never the night before.
  • In densely populated bear areas, consider using a certified bear-resistant garbage container.
  • Clean garbage cans frequently with ammonia products.
  • Do not burn garbage. It is illegal and can attract bears.
  • Do not add meat scraps, bones, or melon rinds to compost piles.
  • Feed pets indoors and store pet food indoors. If pets must be fed outside, immediately remove all uneaten food and dishes.
  • It is important to appreciate and respect black bears as wild animals, from a distance.

Coyotes

Coyotes are an integral part of New York’s natural ecosystem, but can also come into conflict with people if they become habituated to humans and food sources. With the onset of warmer weather, many of New York’s coyotes will set up dens for pups that will arrive this spring. Coyotes are well adapted to suburban and even urban environments, but for the most part will avoid contact with people.

The Eastern coyote is found everywhere from rural farmlands and forests to populated suburban and urban areas. In most cases, coyotes avoid people and provide many exciting opportunities for New Yorkers through observation, photography, hunting, and trapping. However, if coyotes learn to associate people with food, such as garbage or pet food, they may lose their natural fear of humans and the potential for close encounters or conflicts increases.

To minimize the chance of conflicts between people and coyotes, it is important to maintain coyotes’ natural fear of people. Below are recommended steps residents and visitors can take to reduce or prevent conflicts with coyotes:

  • Do not feed coyotes and discourage others from doing so.
  • Unintentional food sources attract coyotes and other wildlife and increase risks to people and pets. To reduce risks:
    • Do not feed pets outside;
    • Make garbage inaccessible to coyotes and other animals;
    • Fence or enclose compost piles so they are not accessible to coyotes; and
    • Eliminate availability of bird seed. Concentrations of birds and rodents that come to feeders can attract coyotes. If a coyote is seen near a birdfeeder, clean up waste seed and spillage to remove the attractant
  • Do not allow coyotes to approach people or pets.
  • Teach children to appreciate coyotes from a distance.
  • If you see a coyote, be aggressive in your behavior. Stand tall and hold arms out to look large. If a coyote lingers for too long, make loud noises, wave your arms, or throw sticks and stones.
  • Do not allow pets to run free. Supervise outdoor pets to keep them safe from coyotes and other wildlife, especially at sunset and at night. Small dogs and cats are especially vulnerable to coyotes.
  • Fencing your yard may deter coyotes. The fence should be tight to the ground, preferably extending six inches below ground level, and taller than four feet.
  • Remove brush and tall grass from around your home to reduce protective cover for coyotes. Coyotes are typically secretive and like areas where they can hide.
  • Contact the local police department and DEC regional office for assistance if you notice that coyotes are exhibiting “bold” behaviors and have little or no fear of people. Seeing a coyote occasionally throughout the year is not evidence of bold behavior.
  • Ask neighbors to follow these same steps.

If coyote behavior becomes threatening, report it to the local DEC office, as this may indicate that some individual coyotes have lost their fear of people and there may be a greater risk that a problem could occur. For additional information about the Eastern Coyote and preventing conflicts with coyotes, visit the Eastern Coyote web page and Coyote Conflicts web page on DEC’s website.

To learn more about New York’s black bears, visit DEC’s website or look for DEC’s DVD: ‘Living with New York Black Bears’, available at most local public libraries in New York.

For more information about bears in your area or to report a problem with black bears, contact the nearest regional DEC office. For listings of Regional DEC Offices, visit DEC’s website.

“Break Trail” and Deep Snow Conditions in the Adirondacks.

 

By  Kathryn Tracey

Winter storm Stella brought a lot of snow to the Adirondacks this week, with three feet or more blanketing higher elevations and even one to two feet in the periphery regions. The weather is expected to remain blustery and cold through the weekend, with the possibility for additional snowfall.

The DEC is advising winter outdoor enthusiasts to be prepared for deep snow this week and weekend in the Adirondacks. Read on for trail and ice conditions, advisories, and expected weather.

Trail Conditions

Most trails in the Adirondacks will not be used until this weekend, so snowshoers and cross-country skiers should expect to push through deep, fresh snow on largely untraveled trails. These “break trail” conditions will mean your hike or ski takes more time and energy than usual and you should plan accordingly.
In addition to the deep snow, sustained high winds and gusts during the blizzard likely caused fallen or leaning trees, limbs, and branches on many trails.
Please Note: Snowshoes or skis are REQUIRED ON ALL TRAILS in the High Peaks Wilderness and should be used on all trails in the Adirondacks as a best practice. The use of snowshoes prevents “post-holing,” or deep footprints in the snow (which can make trails more difficult and hazardous), avoids injuries, and eases travel on snow-covered trails.
Ice Conditions
Prior to the storm, ice had thinned, weakened, and receded from inlets, outlets, and shorelines. Though the past few days have seen sub-zero temperatures, ice has only recently reformed and is thin, even though it may be covered with snow – ice that can hold snow is not necessarily strong enough to hold a person! No ice or areas near ice should be considered safe without checking the thickness and condition of the ice. If you’re not sure how to do this, check out our winter ice safety guide.
The following areas should be avoided:
  • Over or near moving water such as rivers, streams, and channels
  • Near any open water
  • Near shorelines
  • Near inlets and outlets
  • Near boathouses and docks
  • Near “bubblers” or other ice-prevention devices

Do not, under any circumstances, take snowmobiles or other vehicles out onto ice.

Snowmobile Trail Conditions
The DEC is currently working with the St. Lawrence County Snowmobile Association, the Franklin County Snowmobilers and others to reopen gates and trails that have been closed due to lack of snow. Contact your local club or tourist information center for local trail conditions.
Again, it bears repeating – snowmobilers should not be riding on any frozen water bodies. Stay off the ice!
Weather & Conditions at High Elevations and Open Summits
The weather is expected to be quite cold this weekend. Remember that temperatures will be colder and winds stronger at higher elevations and on open summits. In these conditions, trails will be easily lost. Make sure you have a map and compass with you or wait a few days until trails have been used and are easier to follow.
Whiteout conditions from blowing snow can occur regularly and suddenly. You should never attempt to summit when whiteout conditions exist.
Avalanche Risks
 
The recent storm combined high winds with snowfall rates of 3-4 inches per hour, with more than 30 inches (75 cm) of snow in the higher peaks. Due to winds, you will find deeper snows and cornices on the leeward side of the mountains. Below freezing temperatures and forecasts for additional accumulations this weekend will add layers to the snow pack and slow bonding. These are all factors that are conducive to avalanche conditions, especially on avalanche-prone terrain.
The DEC has issued the following guidelines:
Cross-country skiers and snowshoers should stay on trails and away from steep slopes on summits.

Backcountry downhill skiers, snowboarders, and others who may traverse avalanche-prone terrain should take precautions:
  • Know the terrain, weather, and snow conditions
  • Dig multiple snow pits to conduct stability tests – do NOT rely on other people’s data
  • Practice safe route finding and safe travel techniques
  • Never ski, board, or climb with someone above or behind you – only one person on the slope at a time
  • Ski and ride near trees, not in the center of slides or other open areas
  • Always carry a shovel, probes, and transceiver with fresh batteries
  • Ensure all members of your group know avalanche rescue techniques
  • Never travel alone
  • Tell someone where you are going

Learn more about avalanche conditions and safety precautions from the DEC.

Have fun this weekend, and remember – you can check current conditions and forecasts on the Adirondack Backcountry Information page from the DEC before you head out. 

Forbidding Forecast For Lyme Disease In The Northeast

Last summer Felicia Keesing returned from a long trip and found that her home in upstate New York had been subjected to an invasion.

What Causes Pandemics? We Do

In this series, NPR explores the causes behind our new hyperinfectious era. Join the conversation with the hashtag #KillerViruses or tweet us @NPRGoatsAndSoda

Rick Ostfeld and Felicia Keesing have been studying Lyme disease and ways to stop it for more than 20 years. The couple has come up with a way to predict how bad a Lyme season will be a full year in advance.

“There was evidence of mice everywhere. They had completely taken over,” says Keesing, an ecologist at Bard College.

It was a plague of mice. And it had landed right in Keesing’s kitchen.

“Not only were there mouse droppings on our countertops, but we also found dead mice on the kitchen floor,” says Keesing’s husband, Rick Ostfeld, an ecologist at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies in Millbrook, N.Y.

The Hudson River Valley experienced a mouse plague during the summer of 2016. The critters were everywhere. For most people, it was just a nuisance. But for Keesing and Ostfeld, the mouse plague signaled something foreboding.

“We’re anticipating 2017 to be a particularly risky year for Lyme,” Ostfeld says.

Keesing and Ostfeld, who have studied Lyme for more than 20 years, have come up with an early warning system for the disease. They can predict how many cases there will be a year in advance by looking at one key measurement: Count the mice the year before.

The number of critters scampering around the forest in the summer correlates to the Lyme cases the following summer, they’ve reported.

The explanation is simple: Mice are highly efficient transmitters of Lyme. They infect up to 95 percent of ticks that feed on them. Mice are responsible for infecting the majority of ticks carrying Lyme in the Northeast. And ticks love mice. “An individual mouse might have 50, 60, even 100 ticks covering its ears and face,” Ostfeld says.

So that mouse plague last year means there is going to be a Lyme plague this year. “Yep. I’m sorry to say that’s the scenario we’re expecting,” Ostfeld says.

Mice and ticks get along swimmingly. Other animals, such as possums, groom away ticks — and sometimes kill them. But white-footed mice tolerate ticks covering their faces and ears. Blacklegged ticks, like the adult female on the right, are tiny — about the size of a sesame seed.

He’s not exactly sure which parts of the Northeast will be at highest risk.

But wherever Lyme exists, people should be vigilant, says epidemiologist Kiersten Kugeler at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Whether it’s a bad season or not, there’s still going to be a lot of human cases of tick-borne diseases,” she says. “What’s important for people to know is that the ticks are spreading to new areas — and tick-borne diseases are coming with them.”

Back in the early ’80s, the disease wasn’t that big a problem. Cases were confined to two small regions: western Wisconsin and the area from Connecticut to New Jersey.

Since then, Lyme cases have shot up in number and spread in all directions: “The only place that they haven’t really spread is into the Great Lakes and the Atlantic Ocean, for obvious reasons,” says biologist Rebecca Eisen, who’s also at the CDC.

Now Lyme is present in more than 260 counties, the CDC reported in 2015. The disease shows up in Maine, swoops down the East Coast into Washington, D.C., and southern Virginia. Then it hops to the Midwest into northern Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin and Minnesota. There are also small pockets of Lyme on the West Coast.

Since the early ’90s, reported cases of Lyme disease have tripled, to about 30,000 cases each year. The CDC thinks the actual number is 10 times higher.

“We think the true burden of Lyme disease in the U.S. is about 300,000 cases,” Kugeler says. “Lyme disease is quite a big public health problem.”

The reasons for this Lyme explosion are many, Ostfeld says. Climate change is part of it. The surge in deer — which feed ticks and spread them around — has also been a factor.

But Ostfeld has found another reason, something that happened more than 200 years ago.

Today the Hudson River Valley in upstate New York is gorgeous. The hills are covered with oak forests, and the valleys are patchworks of hayfields and farms.

But Ostfeld says the area didn’t always look like this. When the Europeans came here hundreds of years ago, they clear-cut nearly all of the forests to plant crops and raise livestock.

“They also cut down trees for commercial use,” Ostfeld says, “to make masts for ships, and for firewood.”

Since then a lot of the forest has come back — but it’s not the same forest as before, he says. Today it’s all broken up into little pieces, with roads, farms and housing developments.

For mice, this has been great news.

“They tend to thrive in these degraded, fragmented landscapes,” Ostfeld says, because their predators need big forests to survive.

Without as many foxes, hawks and owls to eat them, mice crank out babies. And we end up with forests packed with mice — mice that are chronically infected with Lyme and covered with ticks.

So all these little patches of forest dotting the Northeast have basically turned into Lyme factories, spilling over with infected ticks.

Then people come along and do the darndest thing, Keesing says: They build their dream homes right next door. “So we see that humans are putting themselves in these areas where they’re most at risk,” she says.

To figure out why Lyme has become more prevalent, researchers at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies in Millbrook, N.Y., have trapped hundreds of thousands of rodents in the woods over the past 20 years. Research assistant Francesca Rubino checks a squirrel for ticks.

And that means people, in some areas, may be putting themselves at risk for Lyme every single day without even knowing it, says the CDC’s Kiersten Kugeler. “In the Northeast, most people catch Lyme around their homes,” she says. “People out gardening. People playing in their backyard. Mowing the lawn.”

So what can you do to keep from getting infected? Add a tick check to your daily routine, Kugeler says. When you’re in the shower check your body for tiny ticks, especially the places they like to hide.

“That’s the scalp, behind the ears, the armpits and in the groin area,” she says.

If you do find a tick, get it off as quickly as possible. The longer an infected tick stays on your skin, the greater the chance it will pass the Lyme bacteria on to you. Generally, it takes about 24 hours for the tick to infect a person after it starts biting.

Then be on the lookout for Lyme symptoms — like a red rash or a fever. It anything crops up, go see a doctor immediately. Don’t wait: The earlier you get treated, the better chance you’ll have for a full recovery.

Essential pre-season training tips from an expert.

Doughy is a lifestyle choice. Make a different one: Start training, stop complaining, and yadda yadda yadda, you’re a trail-eating beast. You’ll thank us later when you’re flexing a rippling quad while pointing some outdoorsy looker toward the trailhead.

THE EXPERT
Jordan Smothermon,
head coach at StrongSwiftDurable in Jackson, WY
“We understand that mountain athletes put their bodies on the line,” he says, explaining his coaching philosophy. And you’ll never hear him ask what you bench. “The way to test our fitness is: If the weather changes, can we get down or out quickly and safely?” That’s the true measure of mountain fitness.

If You Do Nothing Else to Get in Shape for Hiking, Do These

1. Crunches.
2. Squats.
3. Lunges.
4. Push-Ups.
5. Step-Ups. 
Weight a pack (20 lbs. to start) and step onto a park bench 16 to 18 inches high. Add 5 pounds a week until you’re at 40 lbs. Add to your workout three times a week until you can do 700 steps in less than 30 minutes.

Three Best Exercises to Get in Shape for Hiking

1. Lunges
Hold equal weights in both hands (pro tip: buckets of nails look tough). From a standing position, step forward until both legs are bent at 90 degrees. Push up, bringing rear foot forward. Repeat with the other leg.

2. Poor Man’s Leg Curl
Lay flat on the floor and scoot your hips toward an elevated bench. Place your left foot on the bench. Lift your right leg up as high as you can bear. Press lefty down into the bench, clench your glutes and hammies, and raise your hips off the ground. Do 10, then repeat for other leg.

3. Band Walks
Tie a resistance band around your legs, mid-shin, so there’s tension while you stand with legs at hip-width. Stand straight, tuck abs, put hands on hips, and walk forward while maintaining the band’s tension between your shins.

Watch video demonstrations of all these exercises atstrongswiftdurable.com/exercises.

Basic 9 Week Early Season Training Calendar

Smothermon advises building a good, early season strength base. When the season gets on and you need more endurance, you can easily trade short-burst power for long-burn performance. Think of your muscles as a savings account for fitness. As you move from segment to segment, build on the fitness and strength gains you’ve made.

Weeks 1-3
STRENGTH ➞ 3 days per week, 1 hour/session. “Put on strength now and you’ll have muscle that you can later sacrifice to build up your endurance.” Keep rest periods to a minute or two: “No time to flex in front of the mirror.”

Weeks 4-6
ENDURANCE ➞ 1 day per week for 45 minutes at moderate intensity (e.g. jogging, hiking)

Weeks 7-9
INTENSITY ➞ Increase weekly endurance workouts to 1.5 to 2 hours, and add 1 day of high intensity exercise with high output but less weight (e.g. speed hiking).

Ready for more? Check out our complete training archive for hikers of any age here.