Old Highway resident Marie Lynch is on a mission to alert fellow Wiltonians that bears are on the rise.

“I just want to warn everybody. We’d better be alert,” said Lynch, whose home is not far from the town center.

Lynch said she always thought bears would be too timid to venture so close to her area of town, but she was wrong. She found piles of bear scat in her backyard and notified Animal Control Officer Chris Muir.

“Officer Muir told me they are looking for food, and that they go after bird feeders,” said Lynch, whose solution was to scatter hot red pepper around the perimeter of her yard.

“I heard the bears don’t like that smell,” she said.

Townwide, there were three sightings of bears during the month of June, Muir said. Those were the first sightings in town since February.

Muir advises residents to bring their bird feeders inside and not leave any snacks for the bruins.

There have been 22 black bear sightings in Wilton over the past year, according to Chris Collibee, spokesman for the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.

The local bear population is primarily based in Litchfield County, but has been expanding into Fairfield County and even New Haven County.

“Bear sightings are more frequent in the state,” said Collibee.

The estimated population of Connecticut bears is 800, and they are having enough cubs to grow at a rate of 10% per year, he said.

“Sightings and interactions will continue to increase as their population grows,” he said.