Even with the snow, N.H. bears are out, looking for food from bird feeders

  • Bird feeders are a lure for hungry bears, as seen in this photograph taken from a backyard in Hopkinton last spring. Courtesy

  • Bird feeders can serve as an attraction for bears foraging for food, which is demonstrated in this photo taken from a backyard in Hopkinton last spring. Courtesy

Monitor staff
Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Despite the continuing cold and snow, black bears are starting their springtime stir, and New Hampshire wildlife officials are asking people to get ready to take down their bird feeders.

March 31 is the traditional deadline for ending winter bird feeding activity, but “more mild winters and the earlier arrival of spring conditions warrant modifications,” New Hampshire Fish and Game said in a statement.

“During recent years, den emergence by bears appears to be a couple of weeks earlier as compared with historical trends, which is a direct result of milder winters and decreased snow pack,” said Andrew Timmins, bear project leader for the department. “The strong spring sunshine, longer days, warmer temperatures, and receding snow level stimulate many wildlife species, including hungry bears, to start searching for available food.”

Timmins said that reports of bear activity and sightings have become more frequent in recent days, with “many people” reporting bears at their bird feeders.

“Do not wait for a bear to get the bird feeder and then respond. Doing so encourages foraging behavior by bears near residences. A single food reward will cause the bear to return and continue to search the area for food,” he said. “Feeding birds during the summer is a hobby that puts bears at incredible risk.”

In particular, Timmins said, the black oil sunflower seeds featured in most bird seed mixes are high in fat and protein, which bears crave during spring and summer.

Timmins said bird feeders “typically are the direct cause of 25 percent of conflicts during years when bear-human conflicts are more abundant.”

In addition to bird feeders, unprotected chickens and other poultry and unsecured garbage cans or dumpsters contribute significantly to human-bear conflicts .

For more information on preventing conflicts with black bears, visit wildnh.com/wildlife/somethings-bruin.html.

(David Brooks can be reached at 369-3313 or dbrooks@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @GraniteGeek.)