Many of us are all too familiar with the American Black Bear’s habit of wandering out of forests and into human communities. Once the bears come out of hibernation in late March, they want snacks — and garbage cans, bird feeders, dishes of pet food set outdoors, and even some landscape plants look like an all-you-can-eat buffet.
As bears travel through residential areas, the chances of bear-related property damage or a vehicle accident involving a bear increase greatly. Unfortunately, insurance won’t always cover bear damage. According to State Farm Insurance, some types of bear damage are more likely to be covered than others.
Bear damage that’s likely to be covered by home insurance:
- Broken windows
- Torn siding
- Damage to doors
- Indoor furniture damage, in the unlikely event that a bear gets into the home
Bear damage that’s not likely to be covered by home insurance:
- Swimming pools
- Hot tubs
- Outdoor furniture
- Bear excrement anywhere on your property
Outdoor items may be covered if they have their own separate policy, but generally an item that is not physically attached to a home is not covered by homeowner’s insurance. Likewise, fencing could go either way: if it is considered to be part of the attached property to the home, it may be covered. When in doubt, contact your insurance company and ask if your fence is covered before encountering trouble.
Vehicle collisions with bears
In terms of vehicle insurance, a collision with a bear is the same as a collision with any other animal such as a deer. Comprehensive car insurance will cover collisions and non-collision bear damage (such as a bear breaking a window). If your auto insurance policy is only for liability or collisions, it will not cover animal-related damage, including accidentally hitting a deer or bear.
If you are unsure whether you have a policy that covers animal-related damage, consult your insurance agent or company. Your insurer should also be in your contacts in case you experience an accident.
From 2020 – 2021, State Farm received 2,350 claims for bear collisions and estimates that the insurance industry as a whole received 13,687 bear collision claims. California ranked first for bear collisions, with Pennsylvania coming in third.
Tips for bear safety and preventing visits from bears
- Don’t approach the bear!
- Scare the bear by making a loud noise. Black bears are shy and shouting out of a window is often enough to scare them.
- Don’t feed the bears.
- Use trash cans with well-fitting lids.
- Keep your pets indoors, on a leash, or otherwise monitored.
- Consider avoiding landscape plants like berries and fruit trees.
- Remove bird feeders during bears’ active months.
- Call your Game Commission regional office if a bear is causing a problem.