GREAT BARRINGTON, Mass. (WWLP) – Police in Great Barrington are reminding residents to avoid conflicts with bears as the number of reports has increased.

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.

How to prevent bears in your yard

If you have a bird feeder in your yard, bears may be drawn closer. According to Mass.gov, it is suggested to remove the entire feeder at the first sign of bear activity. Besides bears, wild turkeys and coyotes are attracted to bird feeders. Bird feeders tend to attract animals like fishers and bobcats that prey upon smaller animals.

If you’re a person that enjoys seeing birds in your yard, MassWildlife recommends growing native plants, shrubs, and trees to attract birds instead. Water features are another substitution. These prevents will help to minimize fewer sightings of bears and more appearances of birds. Mass.gov also suggests not leaving any empty feeders out as they still can attract bears due to residual smell.

When it comes to handling garbage, it is best to keep it in closed containers in a garage or outbuilding and not leave the garbage barrels outside overnight. Mass.gov says to keep them by the roadside before pickup. Residents can also use double bags or sprinkle ammonia to reduce odors. Any odors may attract bears, even if nothing is inside them.

If you are a person that composts, items such as meat scraps, and greasy, oily, or sweet materials should not be thrown in your compost pile.

If bears are common in the community, bear-proof dumpsters are recommended for those in apartments, condos, and campgrounds.

Lastly, grills should be cleaned after each use. Scraps, grease containers, or spilled grease should also not be left in your yard.