Take down bird feeders this spring to deter bear visits

CONCORD – Although the sanctioned bird feeding season continues through March, officials are asking folks to pull feeders early because of anticipated bear activity.

"Den emergence by bears appears to be about a month earlier this year due to the very mild winter and recent stretch of abnormally spring-like conditions," said Andrew Timmins, Bear Project leader for the N.H. Fish and Game Department. "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."

To help prevent bear visits, the Fish and Game Department recommends not feeding birds from the onset of spring to Dec. 1.

Bear activity and sightings have become more frequent in the past week and will become increasingly frequent in the coming weeks, according to Timmins.

"By taking action now, you can prevent attracting a bear to your home," he said. "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."

Bear-human conflict mitigation is far more successful when people are proactive, Timmins explained. Black oil sunflower seeds are simply too high a quality of food (high in fat and protein) for bears to ignore.

During 2015, bear-human conflicts were at their lowest level in 20 years, with a total of 394 complaints.

"While several factors caused that decline, the trend speaks well of the willingness of the New Hampshire public to do their part in preventing conflicts," Timmins said. "When people are proactive and eliminate or secure common bear attractants, bears have no reason to be invited into backyards and residential areas."

Despite the success in decreasing conflicts, common attractants such as bird feeders, unsecured garbage and poorly housed chickens continue to be the cause of nearly half the annual complaints.

Avoid encounters with bears by taking a few simple precautions:

? Stop all bird feeding by April 1 or at the onset of extended spring-like weather conditions.

? Clean up spilled birdseed and dispose of it in the trash.

? Secure all garbage in airtight containers inside a garage or adequate storage area, and put garbage out on the morning of pickup, not the night before. If using a Dumpster, inform your Dumpster company that you need a Dumpster with metal locking tops and doors that are inaccessible to bears and other wildlife.

? Avoid putting meat or other food scraps in your compost pile.

? Don’t leave pet food dishes outside overnight.

? Clean and store outdoor grills after each use.

? Finally, never feed bears!

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

If you have questions about bear-related problems, call a the number coordinated jointly by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services and the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department: 1-888-749-2327.

Submitted by the N.H. Fish and Game Department