Andrew Timmins: (603) 788-3164
Jay Martin: (603) 271-3211
March 15, 2019
CONCORD, NH – The Granite State’s black bears will soon be ending their denning period and be actively searching for any available food sources after a long winter. With a state-wide failure of hard mast crops such as acorns and beech nuts this past fall, bears will emerge hungrier and in poorer physical condition than during typical years.
As spring arrives, bears will be much more likely to turn to residential areas and take advantage of any man-made food opportunities due to their poor physical condition. As a result, officials are asking the New Hampshire public to be both proactive and responsible by taking down bird feeders no later than April 1 in the North Country, and by March 15 in central and southern parts of the state.
Additionally, residents can help to prevent attracting bears by securing dumpsters and garbage cans and storing grills, pet food, and animal feeding stations when not in use. Because of the increased likelihood of human-bear interactions this spring, residents should take extra care to secure any possible food attractants. The easiest way to solve a bear-human conflict is to prevent it in the first place. Please do your part to help protect New Hampshire’s bears!
“Natural food sources that bears rely on were very scarce during summer and fall of 2018 and bears are now desperate for any available food,” said Andrew Timmins, Bear Project Leader for the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department. “Bear sightings in residential areas are typically low to nonexistent during the fall. However, the lack of natural food this past year caused bears to frequent these areas in search of high-quality, human-related foods such as black-oil sunflower seed.”
Building good bear-human relationships is far more successful when people are preemptive, and it is easier to avoid a conflict rather than resolve one. “Bears have an extremely acute sense of smell and long memories,” said Timmins, “so we really need the cooperation of residents this spring to prevent emerging bears from returning to locations where they were successful in finding backyard food sources. It is harmful for bears to become conditioned to forage around homes and in residential areas because they will lose some of their natural aversion to humans. Bears are much better off in the wild.”
Reports of bear activity and sightings are already beginning in the southern regions of New Hampshire. By taking action now, you can prevent attracting a hungry bear to your home this spring. Do not wait for a bear to discover the bird feeder, accessible garbage or other residential food attractant and then respond.
Feeding birds is a hobby that puts bears at incredible risk. Despite continued pleas asking homeowners not to feed birds during the non-winter months, bird feeders typically are the direct cause of 25% of annual bear-human encounters. There is abundant food for birds in the spring and summer, consider a bird bath or flowering plants that attract birds instead. In addition to bird feeders, other attractants include unprotected chickens and other poultry (23%) and unsecured garbage cans/dumpsters (38%). “If the public would be willing to address these three common attractants, we could quickly reduce annual bear-human encounters by more than 80%, which would be tremendous,” said Timmins.
Help build respectful relationships with bears:
- Stop feeding wild birds by April 1 or at the onset of extended spring-like weather conditions, whichever comes first since conditions fluctuate throughout the state.
- Clean up any spilled birdseed and dispose of it in a secured trash container.
- 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.
- Never put 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 deliberately feed bears. You will be encouraging these animals to rely on human-related foods which will deteriorate their wild behavior and reduce their survival.
For more information on reducing bear-human encounters, visit www.wildnh.com/wildlife/somethings-bruin.html.
If you have questions regarding bear-related issues, 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 (1-888-SHY-BEAR).