Andrew Timmins (603) 788-3164
Jane Vachon: (603) 271-3211
October 29, 2003

Don't Tempt the Bears: Delay Birdfeeding until December

CONCORD, N.H. -- If you enjoy feeding the birds, resist the temptation to put out feeders before December, or you'll risk habitual bear visitors that are likely to interfere with bird-feeding activities, the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department advised today.

"Given the extraordinary fall we are experiencing, with a lack of natural food crops for bears to eat, the probability of attracting bears to your birdfeeders is extremely high," said Andrew Timmins, bear project leader at Fish and Game. "Some bears may be in poor nutritional condition, motivating them to visit easy-access birdfeeders periodically throughout the fall and even during the winter this year."

Bears are also likely to return in the spring to feeding sites they find in the fall, ultimately cutting short winter bird-feeding activities as bears arrive to devour birdseed and take down or carry off bird feeders. "Ironically, to make the most of your bird-feeding season, you'll need to start late," Timmins said.

New Hampshire has experienced a "mast bust" this year -- poor production of beechnuts and acorns, which are foods that bears rely on to fatten up for the winter. These food species also represent important spring foods as bears emerge from dens. With natural foods in short supply, bears have been unusually active this fall as they range in search of alternative foods. Heightened activity is expected in the spring as well.

As fall foods diminish and temperatures grow colder, bears tend to retire to their dens because it takes more energy for them to acquire foods than they gain from feeding. Bears in poor shape, however, will resist denning when rich food resources such as sunflower seeds are available. The result will be that bears keep visiting feeders, thus interfering with, or even preventing, effective bird-feeding. In the long run, this can lead to a destructive pattern of foraging by bears in close proximity to humans, with potentially lethal consequences for the bear. Once bears become emboldened, they quickly learn that human habitations offer a wide variety of many attractive bear foods including pet food, assorted trash items, compost, fruits from cultivated bushes and trees, and even scraps from barbecue grills.

With increased bear activity in the state this fall and expected high activity this winter and spring, try to keep in mind these simple tips from Fish and Game to avoid problems with black bears:

  • Don't put out birdfeeders until December (if bears visit your feeders take them down for several more weeks).
  • Keep garbage in airtight containers inside a garage or storage area.
  • Never put meat or other cooked foods in your compost pile.
  • Don't leave pet food dishes outdoors at night.
  • Clean up or store outdoor grills after each use.
  • When camping, keep campsites clean.
  • Never intentionally feed bears.

For more information on preventing conflicts with bears, click here.

People with questions about bear-related problems 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).


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NH Fish and Game Dept.
11 Hazen Drive
Concord, NH 03301

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