It happens every year, and without fail. The calls. The e-mails. The chat requests. By late winter, our team is gearing up to field questions and concerns from desperate birders on one specific topic: bears.
Bears are coming out of hibernation, and are looking for quick and easy snacks for themselves and their young. Your bird feeder never looked so attractive than when it is full of delicious fruits, nuts, and seed, and it catches a hungry bear's eye. Unfortunately, the only way to be 100% sure that your feeder is bear-proof is to not have a feeder. However, there are steps you can take to deter bears and offer food to your fine, feathered friends!
Take your feeders in at night. The simplest way to deter bears is not to have the food available to them in the first place. Experts recommend bringing your feeders inside and cleaning the area around the feeders. Seed catchers or seed trays attached to the feeder or a tarp or drop cloth on the ground underneath feeders will make daily cleanup much easier.
Keep all food out of reach. Often overlooked are the bags of feed, whether for the birds, pets, or other animals. Make sure all food is locked in a shed, house, or garage. Keep outdoor eating and food-prep areas (such as grills) clean. Secure any trashcans and properly maintain compost that contains food waste. If you are unable to bring bird feeders in at night, consider hanging them higher (about 10 feet) in trees that bears are unable to climb.
Switch to hot feed. Many bird food manufacturers offer spicy seed or spicy oils to add to existing seed. These are generally meant to deter squirrels, but may also work on bears. Birds do not have the same sensors that make eating spicy seed uncomfortable, so they are often undeterred. However, this is not foolproof since animals, just as humans, can become accustomed to spicy foods.
Read up on bear facts. The Humane Society of the United States offers suggestions and resources if you should encounter a bear in your yard.
It is essential to keep bears away from your feeders. Apart from simply being another pest to contend with, bears are particularly difficult to deter once they have found a spot for a quick meal. This can be dangerous for the bear. And though very rare, can also pose a threat to you, your pets, or even your neighbors. Feeders can harbor bacteria that infected bears can spread to the others. They have also been known to injure themselves on broken feeders.
Bears are amazing animals, and taking one or more of these simple steps allow us to coexist.