CHICOPEE, Mass. (WWLP) – State wildlife officials are reminding the public that Massachusetts is bear country.

Sightings are up across the state as the bear population increases. In 1970 there were less than 100 black bears in the state. Today the population is estimated to be over 4,500. If you see a bear in town or your yard just leave it alone. They are likely looking for food and will return to the forest on their own.

If you have a dog keep it leashed, or check your yard for bears before letting it out. If you encounter one in the woods, stay calm and back away slowly. Black bears are generally not aggressive and can co-exist with people if treated with respect.

If you can safely take photos of wildlife in your community, email them to Reportit@wwlp.com!