Bring in Bird Feeders and Protect Poultry with Electric Fencing

Andrew Timmins: (603) 788-3164
Jay Martin: (603) 271-3211
March 15, 2022

Concord, NH – The Granite State’s black bears will soon be emerging from their winter dens and begin actively searching for any available food sources. While there may be some leftover nuts from last fall, bears will be primarily reliant on spring greens for food. Because of this limited menu, bears will be easily enticed by a wide variety of human-produced food sources, especially bird feeders.

With the recent onset of spring-like conditions, 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 immediately in central and southern parts of the state where bear activity has already been reported.

Backyard farmers should protect poultry, livestock, and bees with electric fencing, being sure to remember these fencing needs when picking up new chicks this spring. Additionally, residents 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 protect New Hampshire’s bears!

“This winter has had long periods of cold temperatures, and bears have been denned and inactive in response,” said Andrew Timmins, Bear Project Leader for the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department. “However, the recent spring-like weather undoubtedly will result in some bears becoming active, particularly in the central and southern parts of the state where the snow is gone. It’s time to prepare for foraging bears and remove or secure all backyard food sources.”

“Building good bear–human relationships is far more successful when people are preemptive, and it is easier to avoid a conflict than resolve one,” said Timmins. “Bears have an extremely acute sense of smell, long memories, and high intelligence. We really need the help of residents this spring to prevent emerging bears from returning to locations where they have been previously 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 relying on natural food sources.”

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, so consider a bird bath or flowering plants that attract birds instead. In addition to bird feeders, other bear 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. If you live south of the White Mountains consider removing bird feeders March 15 or at the onset of 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 one 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.
  • 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 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).