CHICOPEE, Mass. (WWLP) – MassWildlife is reminding the public that black bears will be emerging from their winter dens this month and seeking food.

The Division of Fisheries and Wildlife recommend residents that live in western Massachusetts, northern Middlesex County, and Worcester County should remove their birdfeeders to reduce the chance of bears searching for food in yards. Natural foods like acorns and other nuts are lacking this year due to a lower fall mast crop. Bears will easily skip the search for natural foods like skunk cabbage if they have an easier access to birdfeeders, according to MassWildlife.

Residents are also asked to secure trash cans, bee hives, chickens and livestock. MassWildlife says properly maintained electric fencing are the best way to protect chickens from bears.

PHOTOS: Bears spotted in Western Massachusetts in 2021

Massachusetts is the third most densely-populated state in the country for black bears. There are approximately 4,500 black bears in the state and they are expanding eastward. If you have a bear in your yard, do not approach it or get close to it, especially if it is a cub. Making loud noises can help scare the bear away.

If you can safely take a video or photos of a bear in your yard, send it to reportit@wwlp.com.