Compiled from reports by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources
and the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department
Now that spring has arrived, bears and other wildlife on the move, even though it’s still cold outside. Daylight hours have increased which means hibernating bears are waking and emerging from their dens across the country.
Food and mating are the two things that drive the increase in wildlife activity. Since bears typically mate in June or July, food is now the primary cause for the increase in bear activity.
After spending months in their dens, bears waking are hungry. While we might not think of bird feeders and trash cans as food sources, hungry bears have a different viewpoint.
If you live in a state with a high black bear population, it’s a good idea to clean and store your birdfeeders until next winter. Bears are readily attracted to backyard human-related food sources, including raiding unsecured garbage receptacles at homes and businesses.
Most bear-human interactions during spring involve either birdfeeders or garbage says Michigan DNR bear and furbearer specialist Adam Bump.
In New Hampshire, Fish and Game bear biologist Andrew Timmins reports that about half of the annual complaints could have easily been avoided by removing birdfeeders for the spring and summer season and securing garbage cans to minimize conflict.
Birdseed is especially attractive to bears because of its high fat content and easy accessibility. Once bird feeders are discovered, bears will keep coming back until the seed is gone or the feeders have been removed.
“The easiest thing people can do to avoid creating a problem is to temporarily take in their bird feeders and store other attractants, like grills, trash cans and pet food, in a garage or storage shed," Bump said. "Once the woods green up, bears tend to move on to find more natural sources of food, as long as they haven't become habituated to the birdseed or garbage cans."
Bears that are rewarded with food each time they visit a yard can become habituated to these food sources unintentionally provided by people. This can create an unsafe situation for the bear, and become a nuisance for landowners if a bear continuously visits their yard during the day and repeatedly destroys private property in search of food.