Andrew Timmins: (603) 271-1742
New Hampshire Fish and Game Wildlife Division: (603) 271- 2461
March 31, 2023
Concord, NH – The Granite State’s black bears are emerging from their winter dens and beginning to actively search for any available food sources. Last fall’s lack of hard mast, specifically acorns and beechnuts, will result in bears being reliant on spring greens for food. Because of the limited menu during this time, bears will be easily enticed by a wide variety of human-produced food sources, especially bird feeders.
With the arrival of spring, officials are asking the New Hampshire public to be both proactive and responsible by taking down bird feeders no later than April 1 in all areas of the state, or earlier if bears are present. 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 the attraction of bears by securing dumpsters and garbage cans and storing grills, pet food, and animal feeds indoors. The easiest way to solve bear–human conflicts is to prevent them in the first place—please do your part to help protect New Hampshire’s bears.
“Bears denned relatively early last fall due to the lack of natural foods and remained inactive all winter despite fairly mild winter temperatures,” said Andrew Timmins, Game Program Supervisor for the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department. “However, spring has arrived and bears are becoming active in various areas of the state. This is a common sign of spring in New Hampshire and should not be a cause for concern to residents. It simply means it 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. To a large extent, the public can control bear behavior and activity by controlling food attractants around their home. Human responsibility and awareness are the most important tools for preventing conflicts with bears. If bears are not rewarded with food in communities, they do not continue to frequent those locations.”
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 primary bear attractants include unprotected chickens and other poultry (23%) and unsecured garbage cans and 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 by 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).