Andrew Timmins: (603) 788-3164
Jay Martin: (603) 271-3211
November 17, 2021

Concord, NH – The New Hampshire Fish and Game Department is asking residents not to rush the arrival of bird-feeding season this fall. The Granite State’s bear population is actively preparing for their denning period and on the move in search of high-fat, protein-rich food sources to sustain them through the winter. As a result, bears in some areas are turning to residential areas for food, and Officials are asking the public to be both proactive and responsible by holding off on putting out bird feeders until December. Increasingly mild autumns and the often-late arrival of winter conditions warrant adjustments to prevent human-bear conflicts.

“Reports of conflicts between bears and people were lower during the summer this year, but there has been an uptick in bear activity and sightings, most of which occurred at bird feeders, during late October and early November,” said Andy Timmins, Fish and Game’s Bear Project Leader. “By taking action now, you can prevent attracting a hungry bear to your home this fall. Do not wait for a bear to raid the bird feeder or feed from a dumpster and then respond. Doing so encourages foraging behavior by bears near residences. A single food reward will cause the bear to return and continue to search the area for food, no matter the season. Averting conflicts with bears requires increased responsibility and proactive behavior by the public. Bears have an excellent sense of smell and good memories”

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 conflicts. In addition to bird feeders, other attractants that contribute significantly to conflicts 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 conflicts by 70-80%, which would be a tremendous benefit to New Hampshire’s bear population,” said Timmins.

Avoid encounters with bears by taking a few simple precautions:

  • Birdfeeders should not be put out until December 1 or once bear activity slows, whichever comes later. Bringing birdfeeders in at night is not sufficient.
  • Stop all bird feeding by April 1 or at the onset of extended spring-like weather conditions, whichever comes first.
  • Clean up any spilled birdseed and dispose of it in a secured trash container.
  • Store 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.
  • Avoid putting meat or other food scraps in your compost pile.
  • Do not leave pet food dishes outside overnight.
  • Clean and store outdoor grills after each use.
  • Never deliberately feed bears!

These steps will help to ensure that your backyard does not become attractive to bears and other wildlife, which is important because it prevents property damage by bears and keeps bears from becoming nuisance animals.

If you have questions about bear-related problems, 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).