Bears

A black bear cub in a tree. Some tips for coexisting with bears include taking down your bird feeder, fencing in your chicken coop and keeping garbage out of sight and smell.

Although bears generally shy away from humans, hunger sometimes draws them into our neighborhoods, especially in the spring when wild foods are scarce. New Hampshire Fish and Game biologists warn that this year could be particularly challenging, as last fall’s scant acorn crop left many overwintering bears even hungrier than usual.

When it comes to respectful coexistence with bears, preventing conflict is far easier than resolving conflict. Here’s what you need to know:

1. Don’t let your bird feeder become a bear feeder. Prevent bears from being attracted to your yard by removing potential food sources, like bird feeders and birdseed, when bears are most active. New Hampshire Fish and Game recommends taking in your feeders from April 1 through Dec. 1 each year. If you’ve seen a bear in your yard or if your bird feeder has been visited by a bear — even if it’s before April 1 or after Dec. 1 — take down your feeder immediately.

2. Bear-proof your garbage. Keep your garbage in sturdy metal containers with tight-fitting lids, pick up any loose or spilled trash as soon as possible, and don’t put meat in your compost pile.

  • If you store your garbage in a shed, keep the doors tightly closed at all times.
  • If you have a dumpster, lock and bolt it at night, and periodically deodorize it with ammonia to prevent food smells from enticing hungry bruins.
  • If you have curbside pickup, put your trash out on the morning of collection, not the night before.

3. Tidy up your grill. Any outdoor area where people or pets dine has the potential to attract dining bears, as well. Keep pet food and bowls inside, especially at night, and clean your grill thoroughly after each use.

4. Fence in your coops and hives. If you keep chickens or bees, electric fencing is the single most effective way to keep bears and other wildlife away from your coops and hives. Properly installed electric fencing works long-term, and prevents the unnecessary shooting of mother bears — and subsequent orphaning of cubs — who have taken an interest in backyard poultry.

5. Keep your distance. If you see a bear, keep your distance. If you’re near a building or vehicle, go inside and stay there until the bear has wandered off. If you’re in the woods, let the bear know you’re there by clapping, talking, or singing; most of the time, simply making your presence known from a respectful distance will prompt the animal to leave the area. When a bear huffs, chomps its teeth, slaps the ground, or “bluff charges,” it’s telling you that you’re too close for comfort. If this happens, maintain eye contact, speak in a soft, calm voice, and slowly back away. A confident, unhurried retreat sends the message that you’re not a threat.

For more information on coexisting with bears, visit the N.H. Fish and Game website at wildlife.state.nh.us/wildlife/bears.

Brett Amy Thelen is the science director for the Harris Center for Conservation Education in Hancock.