HARTFORD >> The state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection reminds residents to reduce encounters and potential conflicts with black bears, the DEEP said in a press release.

These steps are increasingly important because Connecticut’s bear population continues to grow and expand and bear activity increases in early spring, it said.

In 2016, about 6,700 bear sightings from 134 of Connecticut’s 169 towns were reported to the DEEP Wildlife Division.

“Bears become habituated, losing their fear of humans, when attracted to homes by easily accessible food sources,” said Susan Whalen, DEEP deputy commissioner.

“Such bears spend more time in neighborhoods and near people, increasing public safety fears, and the likelihood that the bears may be hit and killed by cars or meet with some other misfortune.”

Residents should take the following steps to avoid problems with black bears:

• Never feed bears.

• Take down, clean, and put away birdfeeders by late March. Store the feeders until late fall. Clean up spilled seed from the ground.

• Store garbage in secure, airtight containers inside a garage or storage area. Double bagging and adding ammonia to cans and bags will reduce odors that attract bears.

Periodically clean garbage cans with ammonia to reduce residual odor. Garbage for pickup should be put outside the morning of collection and not the night before.

• Protect beehives, livestock (including chickens), and berry bushes from bears with electric fencing.

• Supervise dogs at all times when outside. Keep dogs on a leash when walking and hiking. A roaming dog might be perceived as a threat to a bear or its cubs.

• Do not leave pet food outdoors.

• Keep barbecue grills clean. Store grills inside a garage or shed.

• Avoid placing meat scraps or sweet foods in compost piles.

• If you encounter a bear while hiking, make your presence known by yelling or making other loud noises.

Never try to get closer to a bear to take a photo or video. If a bear does not retreat, slowly leave the area and find an alternate hiking route.

If the bear persistently approaches, be offensive - make loud noises, wave your arms, and throw sticks or rocks. Never run.

While camping, keep a clean campsite, and make sure food and garbage are inaccessible. For example, keep food in a cooler stored in the trunk of a car and never have food in your tent.

In the rare instance when a bear appears to be aggressive toward people, immediately contact the DEEP’s 24-hour dispatch line at 860-424-3333.

REPORT SIGHTINGS

Bear sightings reported by the public provide valuable information to the DEEP Wildlife Division, which is monitoring the black bear population. To report a sighting, go to www.ct.gov/deep/wildlife or call 860-424-3011.

Information on ear tags, including tag color and numbers, is valuable. A common misconception is that a tagged bear is a problem bear, and a bear with two ear tags was caught twice because it was causing problems.

Actually, every bear receives one in each ear the first time it is handled by DEEP. Most tagged bears have not been caught as problem bears, but as part of a project researching the state’s population.

For information about black bears, visit www.ct.gov/deep/blackbear or contact the Wildlife Division.