Take down bird feeders earlier this spring to deter bears

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 explains. Black oil sunflower seeds are simply too high a quality of food (high in fat and protein) for bears to ignore. Natural bear foods during spring and summer are generally high in carbohydrates and low in protein and fat. As a result, birdseed is high on the menu.

"If bears have previously acquired sunflower seeds at your home, they will be back looking for more," Timmins said. "So take down bird feeders and secure other attractants."

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. Addressing these attractants would significantly further reduce bear-human conflicts in the state.

Homeowners should take action to reduce the chances of a bear visiting their home. 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 any 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!

These steps will help to ensure that your backyard does not become attractive to bears and other wildlife, which is important because it prevents property damage by bears and because it keeps bears from becoming nuisance animals.

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, you can get advice by calling a toll-free 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.