Beware of bears all season

CONCORD – Even though summer is winding down and thoughts of fall hang in the distance, the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department and the U.S. Forest Service urges homeowners, campers and the rest of the public to continue to be vigilant and responsible in bear country.

The peak period of conflicts between bears and humans is June and July; however, bear activity in and around
human-occupied areas can continue through August and September. This is particularly true during years of low food abundance, which has been the case in New Hampshire this summer.

"Soft mast crops, particularly blueberries and raspberries, have had poor yields this past summer, producing below-average crops," said Andrew Timmins, bear biologist with New Hampshire Fish and Game. "This lack of natural foods causes bears to search out high-quality, readily available foods provided by humans – birdfeeders, garbage, unsecured coolers – and represents the primary reason people have increased conflicts with bears."

This time period coincides with the peak tourist season and a time when a lot of residents and visitors are recreating outside in bear habitat.

"Campgrounds are full, restaurant dumpsters are overflowing and human-
related food attractants are highly abundant across the landscape," Timmins said.

Timmins also notes that complaints are running above average this year, and are up considerably from 2015.

The primary cause of the poor fruit production by several species this summer appears mostly related to the semi-drought conditions across the state, Timmins said.

The cause of about 60 percent of annual bear-human conflicts is birdfeeders, garbage and inadequately secured chickens. Despite ongoing educational efforts, these attractants remain numerous on the landscape, thereby perpetuating conflicts.

In addition to household attractants, there has been recent activity at some campgrounds, particularly in the White Mountain National Forest. Campers and hikers can avoid conflicts with bears by maintaining a clean campsite and storing food, garbage and aromatic items, such as toothpaste and other toiletries, out of reach of bears – and not in your tent.

If car camping, keep all food and coolers in a building or vehicle with the windows closed. If camping at a remote site, bring rope to properly hang these items, or use a bear-resistant canister, available for rent at no charge at all White Mountain National Forest Ranger Districts offices. For information, visit www.fs.usda.gov/whitemountain.

You can help by following the guidelines at www.wildnh.com/wildlife/somethings-bruin.html.

Fish and Game recommends taking these actions to reduce chances of a bear visiting your home or campsite:

? Stop bird feeding by April 1, or as soon as snow melts.

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

? Secure garbage in airtight containers inside a garage or storage area, and put garbage out on the morning of pickup, not the night before.

? 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.

? Don’t leave food or garbage unsecured at campsites.

? Store food and coolers in a closed vehicle or secured area while camping.

? Never feed bears.

If you have questions about bear-related problems, you can get advice by calling 1-888-749-2327.

Submitted by New Hampshire Fish and Game Department