We first told you about some bear problems in Greene County on Tuesday, now wildlife experts are saying that bear problem - is more of a people problem.
Our crews have seen seven different bears in just two visits. While the video is amazing, wildlife experts say, if people don't stop luring the bears in with food and trash, more than 20 of them could be killed for being considered "home invasion" bears.
“They’re my friends,” said Haines Falls resident Betty Palmer.
We were interviewing Betty about the bears when she looked to her left and said casually, “Oh, there’s grandma bear now.”
A mother bear and her cub joined us - as we talked with Betty about a rumor buzzing around the area that she has been feeding the bears.
“No,” Betty denied the accusations. “They’re eating whatever they get out there in the wild.”
Later in the interview while Betty spoke about an injured bear, she told us a different story.
“I took care of him, he wandered around, he’d lay in front of the truck, and I would come out and give him food,” Betty admitted.
That information infuriates wildlife expert and founder of Friends of the Feathered and Furry Wildlife Center, Missy Runyan.
“It kills me because if we walk down the road 500 feet, it’s the State Park,” Runyan said. “If they're caught one time in a cooler, they’re trapped and euthanized, and they’re shot in the trap.”
Runyan says Betty has been feeding the bears for years and has even been ticketed by the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation.
“They wanted to take me to court, so I told them what I’ve done and that was it,” Betty said. “They’ve always been my friends.”
Runyan uses Betty, and residents who leave their trash out, as examples of what she calls the "people problem."
“People are the ones leaving their garbage, baby diapers, things like that locked in a garage,” Runyan said. “The bear can smell a lot better than you and I and there’s no hiding it from them.”
But as we found out Thursday, even tall fences might not help.
We caught a mother bear diving in a dumpster that was secured with a tall wooden fence. She had three cubs nearby.
But that's the reason Runyan says residents need to try harder.
“You put a bag of garbage out knowing that you either hung something or signed its death warrant,” Runyan said.
Every time Runyan sees Betty with the bears, she says her heart breaks because it is that familiarity with people that will bring these beautiful creatures to their death.
“This is the reason, they don’t have a chance, they leave here to go to the campground, how are they going to be afraid of people when you just witnessed what they did,” she said.
The DEC wants people to remember that feeding the bears is illegal.
You'll get one warning before being issued a ticket and a fine.
Runyan says she's working to get harsher penalties and steeper fines for littering and feeding the bears.
For more on what to do if you see a bear, or how to keep them away, CLICK HERE.