Andrew Timmins: (603) 788-3164
Jay Martin: (603) 271-3211
December 9, 2020

Photo courtesy of Duane Cross

Concord, NH – The Granite State’s black bears are slowly beginning their denning process which has been delayed this year due to mild temperatures and abundant natural foods. Despite the recent snowfall statewide, however, people who enjoy feeding the birds should be prepared to quickly remove their feeders at the first sign of any bear activity until temperatures become consistently colder and a complete lack of bear activity is evident. Because bears are likely to return in the spring to feeding sites that they discover in the fall, initiating bird feeding a few weeks later than the official December 1 start this year is recommended.

The irony of the mild autumn is not lost on Andrew Timmins, the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department’s Bear Project Leader. “To make the most of your bird-feeding season this year, you may want to start later than usual to be sure that you are not attracting those bears that have not yet gone into their dens, ultimately encouraging them to return in the early spring for an easy meal,” Timmins said. “Putting your feeders out later this year will help safeguard bears and protect your birdfeeder investment.”

Additionally, residents and visitors can help prevent attracting bears by securing dumpsters and garbage cans and storing grills, pet food, and animal feed indoors. The easiest way to solve a bear-human conflict is to prevent it in the first place. Please do your part to help keep wildlife wild and protect New Hampshire’s bears.

“Due to the mild start of winter and the availability of acorns in many areas, bears have remained active in some regions of the state during the past few weeks,” continued Timmins. “It is recognized that the endorsed bird feeding season of December 1 through March 31 has arrived, however varied weather and abundant mast crops may require people to make modifications. If a foraging bear discovers fat- and protein-rich sunflower seeds, it will delay den entry and continue to visit the feeder.”

Building good bear-human relationships is far more successful when people are proactive, and it is easier to avoid a conflict than resolve one. “Bears have an extremely acute sense of smell, long memories, and high intelligence,” said Timmins. “We really need the help of residents to prevent bears that emerge during the winter from returning to locations where they have been previously successful in finding backyard food sources when temperatures fluctuate. 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 relying on natural food sources.”

Help build respectful relationships with bears this fall and winter by taking these steps:

  • Delay bird feeding until temperatures become consistently cold and discontinue feeding wild birds by April 1.
  • Clean up any spilled birdseed and dispose of it in a secured trash container when temperatures warm.
  • 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 supplier that you need a dumpster with metal locking tops and doors that are inaccessible to bears and other wildlife.
  • Never put meat scraps in your compost pile.
  • Don’t leave pet food dishes outside overnight.
  • Clean and store outdoor grills after each use, even in the winter.
  • Never deliberately feed bears. You will be encouraging these animals to rely on human-related foods which will affect their wild behavior and reduce their chance of survival.

If you have questions regarding bear-related issues, you can get advice by calling the 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).