Andrew Timmins – 603-788-3164
July 1, 2014
Be Bear Aware as You Enjoy the Summer Season
CONCORD, N.H. – As summer heats up, N.H. Fish and Game is urging homeowners, campers, and the rest of us tobe bear aware. Early summer continues to represent a lean time for bears, according to Andy Timmins, Fish and Game bear biologist. June is considered a "transition period" between spring and summer foods. The succulent, emerging vegetation that bears fed on during spring has lowered in quality as a food source and the summer fruit crops are not yet ripe.
"This period of low food abundance causes bears to search out high-quality, readily available foods provided by humans, and is the main reason why the majority of bear complaints in New Hampshire occur during June and July," says Timmins. Additionally, this time period coincides with the peak tourist season and a time when a lot of residents and visitors are recreating outside in bear habitat. Campgrounds are full, restaurant dumpsters are overflowing, and human-related food attractants are highly abundant across the landscape.
Fish and Game urges individuals and businesses to remove any bear attractant from their property. Bears seek out the highest quality foods in their home range. When natural foods are low in quality (fat and protein), bears will seek out foods like birdseed, poultry grain, pet foods, and garbage which are higher in fat, protein and carbohydrates. Be proactive by removing birdfeeders during spring and summer, secure garbage and protect poultry and livestock with electric fence. Think about long-term solutions to common problems.
"Above all, the public must understand that it is illegal to intentionally feed bears in New Hampshire and you can be fined if caught," said Timmins. "Intentional feeding causes extreme problems and is highly detrimental to bears. This activity habituates bears, which may result in the bear having to be destroyed due to negative behavior. Once a bear becomes accustomed to human areas and foods, the behavior is nearly impossible to break. If you respect bears, keep them wild and don't tempt them with food."
This issue is a major concern for Timmins, who issued a heartfelt statement in May explaining that intentional feeding, and the public's unwillingness to be diligent with common food attractants, had created nuisance behaviors that caused Fish and Game to have to kill multiple mature bears this spring (see wildnh.com/Newsroom/2014/Q2/bear_human_conflicts_ATimmins.html).
The bad news is that since that message went out, things have not improved that much. The number of bears shot by homeowners this year, mostly at unsecured chicken pens, is higher than ever. "Staff from the Department and USDA Wildlife Services has been busy addressing bear conflicts over the past several weeks. It is astonishing how many of these conflicts are the direct result of garbage, birdfeeders and chickens," said Timmins. "Intentional backyard feeding is not the only problem. People appear not to realize they are contributing to bear/human conflicts by having open or plastic-topped dumpsters, unsecured household garbage, bird feeders or unprotected poultry and livestock."
Campers and hikers can avoid conflicts with bears by maintaining a clean campsite and storing food, garbage and aromatic items, like toothpaste and other toiletries, out of reach of bears (not in your tent!) If car camping, keep all food and coolers in a building or vehicle with the windows rolled up. If camping at a remote site, bring rope to properly hang these items, or use food canisters; the White Mountain National Forest Androscoggin Ranger District in Gorham has a limited number of bear-resistant food canisters available to borrow; visit fs.fed.us/r9/white.
You can help by following the Something's Bruin guidelines at wildnh.com/Wildlife/Somethings_Bruin.htm. Talk to your friends and neighbors and encourage them to help prevent conflicts with bears.
Fish and Game recommends that people take the following action to reduce the chances of a bear visiting your home or campsite:
* Stop all bird feeding by April 1 or as soon as snow melts.
* Clean up any spilled birdseed and dispose of it in the trash.
* 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.
* Avoid putting meat or other food scraps in your compost pile.
* Don't leave pet food dishes outside overnight.
* Clean and store outdoor grills after each use.
* Do not leave food, grease or garbage unsecured around campsites.
* Store food and coolers in a closed vehicle or secured area while camping.
* Finally, never intentionally feed bears!
If you have questions about bear-related problems, 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).
For more information on preventing conflicts with black bears, visit wildnh.com/Wildlife/Somethings_Bruin.htm.
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