Short story, it’s time to take in your bird feeders.
The slightly longer story, is that warm weather this month has brought on what feels like an early spring. This warmer weather means all the creatures that den or hibernate during the winter, are starting to become active once more. As animals emerge in the spring, they are looking for things to eat while there are still very few resources. The seeds in bird feeders are high in protein and fat and this makes them very valuable to bears in the spring. Bears can smell a bird feeder FROM ONE MILE AWAY. Bears will also remember where they’ve found food resources from one year to another, so it’s important to keep a clean yard that doesn’t bring in the bears.
The NH Department of Fish and Game, recommends bringing your feeders in on April 1st and not putting them back out until December 1st, so that your feeders are not accessible during the months that bears are most active. Bears are very clever, so it’s nearly impossible to bear proof your feeders. In early spring, scarce resources might also force bears to be active during the day, so taking your feeders in at night isn’t fool proof. Best judgement must be used when irregular weather, such as a week of unseasonably warm temperatures, could change the behavior patterns in animals.
While bears are generally shy and solidary creatures, they are opportunistic feeders which can make them seem like unfavorable neighbors.
There’s no need to be alarmed now that bears are active again this season. Bears are not dangerous to people or pets unless they feel threatened, so like all wildlife they should not be approached. Mothers will be very defensive of their cubs, so extra caution should always be taken when cubs are present. Shouting, a yapping dog, or banging pots and pans is usually enough to encourage bears to leave your yard and move on, but if the food source remains unsecured, they will be back. People who are not used to seeing bears might feel uneasy seeing them in residential areas, but it’s important to remember that human bear conflicts always end worse for the bears. The saying goes “A fed bear is a dead bear”, because a bear that comes into human spaces to source food and becomes habituated to people will typically result in the bear getting relocated, struck by traffic, or put down.
Bears are highly intelligent, and are important to the health of the overall ecosystem. It’s up to us to be good neighbors to the bears by taking down our bird feeders, securing our trash and compost, and learning to live comfortably side by side. To learn more about living with bears check out Something’s Bruin in New Hampshire from NH Fish and Game.