Be prepared for black bear sightings this summer

Published 1:06 pm Wednesday, June 5, 2024

By Tom Latek, Kentucky Today

FRANKFORT — Conservation officers and biologists with the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources (KDFWR) want to remind the public that sightings of black bears can occur outside of their primary range, especially in early summer.

As young males disperse from their primary range in spring and summer to establish new home ranges for themselves and search for mates, bears may be spotted on farms in rural areas, in residential areas and occasionally within town or city boundaries virtually anywhere in the state.

“As young males roam out of the mountain counties, they can sometimes find themselves accidentally entering an urban area,” said John Hast, KDFWR Bear Program coordinator. “These bears typically lay low during daylight hours and move to exit the city at night. Allowing the bear to wander out of town is generally the safest approach for the bear and the residents.”

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

“Not having any idea where they are, and likely being scared with 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 encountered anywhere, and especially in an urban area, people should keep their distance and remove any food sources that might encourage the bear to stay around.”

Black bears have a natural fear of people and dogs, and adverse encounters are extremely rare. KDFWR says never approach or feed one. If you come across one, keep a safe distance. If you feel a bear is posing an immediate danger, call local law enforcement immediately.

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

KDFWR maintains an extensive amount of information about black bears on its website, Search under the key words, “black bear,” or visit