After a long winter of living off their fat reserves, black bears emerge from their dens hungry and looking for food. Much of a bear’s diet is fruits/nuts of vegetative plants, and many natural foods are not yet available. 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. Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife wants to remind people to remove attractants so they don’t create a potentially dangerous interaction with a bear.
Bears that live near people often rely on foods inadvertently provided by people, such as highly nutritional sunflower seeds being fed to birds. In recent years, complaints associated with small livestock such as chickens have increased as backyard farming becomes more popular.
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, you will be more likely to prevent conflicts that could pose a danger 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, slowly back away and leave the area. If a bear approaches you, try to intimidate the bear by waving your arms and making loud noises, such as clapping your hands, shouting, or banging pots together.
If you encounter a bear in an enclosed area, back away to give the bear an escape route and avoid being charged by the bear. Although bear attacks are extremely rare, if a bear charges you, stand your ground and if necessary fight back.
It is very important to be proactive so black bears are not attracted to your home. 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.