Kentucky Fish and Wildlife offers suggestions to be bear wise

​​FRANKFORT, Ky. (June 3, 2024) — Conservation officers and biologists with the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources want to remind the public that sightings of black bears can occur outside of their primary range in eastern Kentucky, 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, 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. Kentucky Fish and Wildlife advises the public to never approach or feed a bear, which can result in a negative encounter. If you ever encounter a bear, keep a safe distance and never approach it. If you feel a bear is posing an immediate danger, call local law enforcement immediately.

Residents of an area where a bear has been spotted should secure their garbage in a garage or other building, not leave pet food outside, and clean and securely store barbecue grills. These are all best practices in general for people to prevent problems with wildlife. Also, people should not feed birds in bear range or in areas where they have been recently observed. It is a violation of Kentucky law to feed bears, or knowingly leave unsecured food available for them to consume.

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

Kentucky Fish and Wildlife maintains an extensive amount of information about black bears on its website. Go online to and search under the key words, “black bear,” or visit

Recent Articles