Grin and bear it.

That might not be the terminology used by the state Department of Environmental Protection and other experts on bears yet it sums up what we need to do as humans co-habitating with a growing population of black bears.

There is, of course, a common sense approach to an encounter with a bear, whether it be at home, out in the wild or elsewhere. And the DEP also has an in-depth set of suggestions for how to avoid attracting black bears to one's neighborhood (see below).

The DEP notes the four-legged critters are almost never hostile to humans unless provoked, and they shouldn't be a threat to most pets, possibly excepting rabbits.

The American bear -- "Ursus Americanus" from the Latin -- once roamed free throughout this realm but its population was virtually eliminated as farming dominated the countryside through the 18th and much of the 19th centuries.

Slowly, black bears have returned to this area as farming has lost its grip on the land and heavily forested terrain has become the norm. These days, bear sightings are fairly frequent and, within any neighborhood, return engagements with the same bear or bears would not be surprising.

As of Tuesday, here are the number of black bear sightings in this area reported to the state DEP since July of 2009:

New Milford (109); Kent (45), Warren 32), Washington (16), Sherman (12), Roxbury (3), Bridgewater (1).

DEP recommendations for behavior

if encountering

a black bear:

-Enjoy it from a distance.

-Advertise your presence by shouting and waving your arms or walk slowly away.

-Never attempt to feed or attract bears.

-Report bear sightings to the state DEP Wildlife Division at 860-675-8130.

To avoid attracting bears:

-Food attractants near homes can cause them to grow habituated to humans and disturbances, such as dogs and other noises. Bears are attracted by bird feeders, garbage, outdoor pet food, compost piles, fruit trees, and berry-producing shrubs.

-Remove bird feeders from late March through November. If a bear visits a bird feeder in winter, remove the feeder.

-Wait until the morning of collection before bringing out trash. Add a few capfuls of ammonia to trash bags and garbage cans to mask food odors. Keep trash bags in a container with a tight lid and store in a garage or shed.

-Do not leave pet food outside overnight. Store livestock food in airtight containers.

-Do not put meats or sweet-smelling fruit rinds in compost piles. Lime can be sprinkled on the compost pile to reduce the smell and discourage bears.

-Thoroughly clean grills after use or store in a garage or shed.

-Never intentionally feed bears. Bears that associate food with people may become aggressive and dangerous. This may lead to personal injury, property damage, and the need to destroy problem animals.

-Encourage your neighbors to take similar precautions.

-If you see a bear on your property you can either leave the bear alone and wait for it to leave or make loud noises from a safe distance to attempt to scare the bear away. After the bear leaves the property, remove anything that may have attracted it to the area.

Editor's Note: Photographs of black bears visiting their homes were also kindly submitted for publication to The Spectrum by Toni Patterson, who lives in the Park Lane neighborhood in New Milford, and Merryall resident Sandy Ivler.