Experts: Kentucky bear population rapidly growing

Once again wildlife experts are warning folks to be on the lookout for bears.

Sunday night we told you about Holly Bay campground in Laurel County being closed because of black bears and now we've learned Great Meadows Campground in McCreary County has done the same thing.

A second McCreary County campground also closed Sunday, but has since re-opened.

As Amber Philpott found out one of the reasons we are seeing more sightings is that experts say Kentucky is home to a rapidly growing bear population.

From backyards to campgrounds, in recent weeks black bears have been making their presence more known.

For campers in Laurel County this weekend one bear got a little too close for comfort.

"For so long we didn't have any, just ten years ago we would have a handful of bear sightings in a year," said Steven Dobey, the Black Bear Program Coordinator with Kentucky Fish and Wildlife.

Dobey says that fact is changing due to an increasing bear population .

Just this weekend three campgrounds in the Daniel Boone National Forest were closed because of bear sightings.

Dobey says this time of year can get interesting for bears.

"June and July is the breeding season so the older more dominant males are roaming all over the place looking for females and breeding opportunities," said Dobey.

Couple that with a hot dry summer that depleted an essential food source in the blackberry and Dobey says bears are on the move and hungry.

"When its gone these bears are coming in contact with anything they can, to get food. Unfortunately for people that is often neighborhoods, developments things of that nature."

With an increase in sightings, Kentucky Fish and Wildlife want to catch the bears in order to keep folks safe.

"We just want to keep the area quiet so the bear will become comfortable and we can put a trap so the bear can walk in, door closes and we can load it up and move it out."

That way campers can experience the outdoors, but not have to share the space with an unwanted visitor.

Black bear season in Kentucky will be December 8 and 9, but Dobey says there are plans in the future to expand the hunting.

The Kentucky Forest Service says there are things you can do to protect yourself and keep bears from coming to close while camping.

Food storage orders are in place in several locations to help prevent conflict with bears.

While camping or picnicking visitors must store food inside a vehicle or bear-resistant container when not cooking or eating.

If you are outside developed campsites your food must be suspended at least 10 feet off the ground and four feet away from tree or pole used.

Other Safety Tips:
Never approach or feed a bear.
If a bear approaches you make a lot of noise, remain standing upright and never play dead or turn your back.
Bear encounters should be reported to the nearest U.S. Forest Service office or to the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife.

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