April 25, 2016

IFW News -- Remove Potential Meals So Bears Don’t Become A Nuisance

For Immediate Release: April 25, 2016

AUGUSTA, Maine – Nuisance bear calls have begun in certain parts of the state, and the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife is reminding homeowners to remove potential bear attractants from their yard. You can learn more at http://www.maine.gov/ifw/wildlife/human/lww_information/bears.html

“With the lack of snow and the early onset of spring, bears are out of their den earlier than normal. After living off their fat reserves, they emerge from their winter den hungry and are looking for food,” says Jen Vashon, IFW’s bear biologist. “Some bears will seek out easily accessible foods in back yards. With a growing bear population that is expanding into central and southern Maine, there is a greater potential for conflicts. We want to remind people to remove attractants so they don’t create a potentially dangerous interaction with a bear.”

Already, the department has received 29 nuisance bear complaints this spring, spread throughout the state. Annually, the Department handles approximately 500 nuisance bear complaints, with May, June, and July being the busiest months for complaints. In 2015, the department responded to 415 complaints for the year.

Black bears emerge hungry from their dens after losing between 15-40% of their weight during winter and they immediately start looking for food. Bears will often turn to suburban attractants such as bird feeders, pet food, and unsecured garbage bins when natural foods are not available.

“It is important for people to be proactive so they don’t attract bears to their homes. Don’t wait until a bear gets to your birdfeeder or grill. They become accustomed to the location where they find food and they will return,” said Vashon.

Much of a bear’s diet is vegetation, and many natural foods such as leaves and grasses are not yet available. This time of year, bears will feed on grasses and sedges near wetlands, as well as the roots, tubes and bulbs of plants such as skunk cabbage and others. Bears are also opportunistic carnivores, and will also feed on moose calves, deer fawns, and small livestock.

In recent years, complaints associated with small livestock such as chickens have increased as backyard farming becomes more popular. To protect your livestock, please keep them behind a fence. At night, keep your animals in a secure building.

Bears that live near people often rely on foods inadvertently provided by people, such as highly nutritional sunflower seeds being fed to birds. Birdseed and other attractants should be removed to prevent attracting or creating nuisance bears.

In order to keep your home less attractive to bears, please:

• Take down bird feeders, rake up and dispose of bird seed on the ground, and store remaining bird seed indoors. • Keep garbage cans inside until the morning of trash pickup • Keep your barbecue grill clean by burning off any food residue, disposing of wrappers and cleaning the grilling area after use. If possible, store grills inside when not in use. • Store pet and livestock food inside, and cleanup any uneaten food. • Keep small livestock behind a fence or in a secure building, especially at night. • Keep dumpster lids closed and locked. • Keep outbuilding and garage doors closed.

By taking these precautions, homeowners are more likely to prevent conflicts that could pose a danger to or require corrective action such as moving or killing a bear. Removing these food sources will also limit other backyard visitor (raccoons, skunks, etc.).

If you encounter a bear, do not approach the bear and slowly back away. If the bear approaches you, try to intimidate the bear by waving your arms and making loud noises, such as clapping your hands or banging pots together. A cornered bear may charge. Always back away while giving the bear an escape route. Although bear attacks are extremely rare, if a bear charges you, stand your ground and if necessary fight back.

For more information, visit www.mefishwildlife.com.