Updated 07/31/2012 06:34 AM
DEC: Stop feeding bears
A sweet-toothed bear left his mark on a candy shop in Old Forge last week. The store's owner says the animal tried not once, but twice, to get inside. Our Andrew Sorensen talked to the owner and the DEC about what they say is the worst season of bear run-ins since the 1990s.
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OLD FORGE, N.Y. -- It sounds like the plot of an episode of Yogi Bear.
"It must have been the aroma from the caramel corn or the fudge or something, I don't know. But whatever it was, he was stopping at nothing to get in," Candy Cottage owner Larry Starer said.
A bear in Old Forge found the Candy Cottage just right for his midnight snack. The smells were so appealing, he tried to get in two nights in a row.
Despite facing a battle with his insurance company over the damage, Starer is taking the incident with some sugar.
"They just couldn't bare to give it to me," he quipped.
The DEC on the other hand, partly because they often have to euthanize nuisance bears, is not taking the issue so lightly.
"What we're seeing this year is pretty intensive behavior by these bears, lots and lots of nuisance complaints," DEC Wildlife Biologist Steven Heerkens said.
Heerkens says Old Forge accounts for nearly 75 percent of all of the region's complaints, and the warm winter and dry spring have made this a big year for bears.
"It's been probably the worst year that I've seen for nuisance complaints since the late 90s," he explained.
But he says the trouble is really the people. It's easy to see people naturally want to be close to the wildlife in Old Forge, but the DEC says a long-running tradition of feeding marshmallows to bears is causing worse behavior in the animals.
"It is illegal to feed these," Heerkens said. "So don't go to Old Forge or other communities with the idea of putting out marshmallows on the picnic table to attract bears to your campsite."
They're starting a new public awareness campaign this week with tips to help the people avoid the type of damage done to the Candy Cottage and save the bears.
The DEC says if you have a lot of food in your trash, it's especially important you do whatever you can to keep the bears out. One of the ways recommended is a soaking a rag in bleach or ammonia and leaving it in your trash can so it cuts down on the smell. They also recommend using dumpsters and trash cans with bear-proof lids.
Starer said he follows many of the DEC's precautions and is looking into more.
"The only bears we like in the store are the gummi bears or the chocolate bears," he said.
But for now, he plans to just grin and bear it.
The DEC unfortunately did have to euthanize the bear. But they say that kind of situation can be avoided by being proactive. The DEC has more information on bears and living with them on their website.