We may still have some winter-like weather, but it is springtime for bears.

Officers with the state's Division of Fisheries and Wildlife said that bears are out of hibernation and sightings across western Massachusetts are on the rise.

Fish and wildlife officers are pleading with the public not to feed the bears - intentionally or otherwise.

It has become a real issue, one that is putting the lives of the bears in danger.

Black bear sightings this week across the state are coming in by the hundreds.

"'Tis the season with bears. All of our younger bears are now starting to come out of hibernation," said Agawam animal control officer Allison Strong.

Strong told Western Mass News that one bear in particular is becoming quite popular around town.

"I've got people here in town that are really excited about this one young bear that seems to be hanging around and looking into their sliders and oh, isn't he cute," Strong explained.

The Problem is, Strong said, that residents think they're so cute, many are feeding them - knowingly and inadvertently.

"So if it's easy for them to find food in people's yards, trash bins, suet out for birds, bird seed, that sort of stuff, that's what they're going to choose over being in the woods," Strong noted.

Strong said that by feeding the bears, they get used to humans. That, she said, is not safe for humans or the bears.

"So we want to make sure that bear figures out very quickly how to be a bear, so that he can stay alive in the woods where he belongs and not have to be taken out of the population," Strong added.

Sadly, if a bear has to be taken out of the population, Strong said that they are sometimes euthanized.

The Division of Fisheries and Wildlife said that if you see a bear to shout, something like 'Go! Get outta here!'

Teaching the bear to maintain a fear of people is very important.

They also said to take down those bird feeders, don't leave trash bags out...basically try to make your property more of a deterrent and less of a bear's buffet.

Fish and wildlife officers said that in the 1970's, the bear population in the state was about 100. Today, it is estimated to be over 4,500.

Copyright 2018 Western Mass News (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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