Bear necessities

  • A black bear grazes in a field in Calais, Vt. Experts say warm weather has prompted bears to come out of their dens early this year, but the food they’re usually searching for isn’t growing yet, so they may be hitting up backyards. AP

  • Bears will hit up birdfeeders for a snack since the feeders are usually filled with high-protein seeds and nuts. pixabay.com

LiveWell editor
Wednesday, April 05, 2017

Snow is melting. Flowers are blooming. Birds are singing.

         But if you wanted to feed those birds, you best reconsider. Springtime is when bears return to activity after a lazy winter. Your birdfeed might just be the perfect breakfast.

“Den emergence by bears appears to be a couple of weeks earlier this year and the upcoming stretch of mild spring weather will cause bears to become active,” Andrew Timmins, Bear Project Leader for the state Fish and Game Department, said in a release. “The strong spring sunshine, longer days and warmer temperatures stimulate many wildlife species, including hungry bears. As bears start to get active, let it serve as a reminder that it is time to put the birdfeeders away until next fall.”

Leaving birdfeeders out in the summer could entice a bear to your yard and encourages the animals to forage for food in residential areas.

New Hampshire Fish and Game said that one out of four human and bear conflicts in the summer occur because of birdfeeders.

Other bear attractants include unsecured garbage, unprotected chickens and other outdoor food scraps.

While coops surrounded by wire fencing is enough to keep out most chicken predators, bears are strong enough to rip the fence to get to the poultry. Timmons said electric fences are the best way to keep the bears out.

In addition to chickens, there have been a few incidents with goats, sheep and pigs, but fewer than with chickens. Timmons said there are usually no issues with cats and only with dogs if the dog antagonizes the bear first.

N.H. Fish and Game recommend taking the following precautions to avoid conflicts with bears.

Remove bird feeders by April 1.

Clean up spilled birdseed and dispose.

Secure garbage in airtight containers and store inside until the morning of your trash pick up; do not put out the night before. If you have a dumpster, make sure the tops are locked and doors are inaccessible to wildlife.

Do no leave pet food out overnight.

Avoid putting meat scraps in your compost pile.

Clean and store barbecue grills after each use.

Intentional feeding of bears is illegal in New Hampshire.

If you do end up with a bear in your yard, Timmons said do your best to make the bear feel unwelcome.

He recommends yelling at it or using something like an air horn. You can also throw rocks or sticks at it, if you are comfortable with that. If it was attracted by food, make sure you remove it and make sure that it doesn’t get left out again.