August 24, 2019

Hungry Black Bears in Maine Coming Out of Hibernation

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Press Release from the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife:

AUGUSTA, Maine – Black bears are emerging from their winter dens, and with natural foods in short supply this time of year, the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife is receiving calls concerning bears looking for easy meals in backyards around birdfeeders, trash cans, chicken coops and grills.

The department is reminding homeowners to remove potential bear attractants from their yard. You can learn more at http://www.maine.gov/ifw/fish-wildlife/wildlife/wildlife-human-issues/living-with-wildlife/bears.html. Maine has a growing bear population and bears are becoming more common in central and southern Maine.

“With a late spring and continued cool weather, bears are looking for food this time of year as natural foods for bears are scarcest,” says Jen Vashon, IFW’s bear biologist. As a result bears will often seek accessible food in peoples back yards.

Already, the department has received 38 nuisance bear complaints this spring, with the majority coming from the Ellsworth/Blue Hill and the Kennebunkport/Arundel area. Annually, the Department handles approximately 500 nuisance bear complaints, with May, June, and July being the busiest months for complaints. April sees between 20 and 50 nuisance bear complaints annually.

Once bears find an easy food source, they will return and they will cause damage to your property, said Vashon. These are simple steps you can take to avoid problems with black bears in your yard or neighborhood.

Black bears emerge hungry from their dens after losing between 15-40% of their weight during winter and they immediately start looking for food. Bears will often turn to suburban attractants such as bird feeders, pet food, and unsecured garbage bins when natural foods are not available.

It is important for people to be proactive so they dont attract bears to their homes. Dont wait until a bear gets to your birdfeeder or grill. They become accustomed to the location where they find easy access to food and they will return and cause significant damage, said Vashon.

Much of a bears diet is vegetation, and many natural foods such as leaves and grasses are not yet available. This time of year, bears will feed on grasses and sedges near wetlands, as well as the roots, tubes and bulbs of plants such as skunk cabbage and others. Bears are also opportunistic carnivores, and will also feed on moose calves, deer fawns, and small livestock.

In recent years, complaints associated with small livestock such as chickens have increased as backyard farming becomes more popular. To protect your livestock, please keep them behind a fence. At night, keep your animals in a secure building.

Bears that live near people often rely on foods inadvertently provided by people, such as highly nutritional sunflower seeds being fed to birds and garbage stored outside. Birdseed and other attractants should be removed to prevent attracting or creating nuisance bears.

Since bears are active between April and November, each spring and summer take these steps to avoid unwanted black bears in your backyard or neighborhood:

Secure garbage and recycling: Food and food odors attract bears, so dont encourage them with easily available food, liquids or garbage. Store garbage cans inside until the morning of trash pickup. Keep dumpster lids closed at all times and schedule frequent pickup so dumpsters do not overflow creating easy access to food.

Remove and store bird feeders: Birdseed and grains have lots of calories, so theyre very attractive to bears. Removing feeders is the best way to avoid damage to your feeders and property. Rake up any seed from the ground and store bird feeders and bird seed inside. Even an empty bird feeder can be enticing to a bear and they will tear it down, damage or destroy it. You can continue to feed birds in the winter when bears are not active.

Never leave pet food outdoors: Feed pets indoors when possible. If you must feed pets outside, feed in single portions and remove food and bowls after feeding. Store pet food inside where bears cant see or smell it.

Clean and store your grill: Clean grills after each use and make sure that all grease, fat and food particles are removed. Store clean grills and smokers in a secure building to keep bears out.

See bears in the area or evidence of bear activity? Tell your neighbors and share information with them on how to avoid bear conflicts.

By taking these precautions, you can prevent conflicts that could pose a danger to or require corrective action such as moving or killing a bear. Removing these food sources will also limit other backyard visitor (raccoons, skunks, etc.).

If you encounter a bear, do not approach the bear and slowly back away. If the bear approaches you, try to intimidate the bear by waving your arms and making loud noises, such as clapping your hands or banging pots together. A cornered bear may charge. Always back away while giving the bear an escape route. Although bear attacks are extremely rare, if a bear charges you, stand your ground and if necessary fight back.

For more information, visit www.mefishwildlife.com.

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