Rob Calvert: (603) 223-6832
Andrew Timmins: (603) 788-3164
Jane Vachon: (603) 271-3211 or (603) 271-5619
May 10, 2007

Recent Spike in Lakes Region Bear Activity Raises Need for Increased Community Awareness

CONCORD, N.H. -- Don't let your bird feeder, Dumpster or trashcan turn into a bear feeder, warns the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department. Throughout the Lakes Region, bears have begun to frequent residential areas in recent days looking for accessible food. During spring, bears feed heavily on any food they can find to replenish fat reserves depleted during their long winter denning period. Homeowners should take action now to prevent bears visiting their home or business this spring.

"It is difficult to estimate the frequency of bear/human conflicts that may occur this spring, but we can be sure that bears will seek out the highest quality foods they can find," said Rob Calvert, Fish and Game's Wildlife Damage Specialist, working in partnership with U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services. "Regardless if you live in rural areas or more urbanized communities like Laconia and surrounding towns, residents and business owners should anticipate that some animals may seek out easily accessible human-related foods, including birdfeeders, open or unlocked Dumpsters, uncontained garbage, and pet or livestock foods located outside and accessible to bears."

Residents and business owners should not assume that bears will not visit the more urbanized portions of cities or towns to feed. Bears are very capable of travelling deep within even heavily developed communities to take advantage of attractive food sources. Bears often use the cover of darkness, and any available wooded cover, to gain access and often will take greater risk for high quality foods such as sunflower seeds.

"The surest way to prevent property damage and reduce concerns over human safety is to keep your property free of attractants, including food, garbage, birdseed and pet foods," said Calvert. "You may need to take additional steps to protect items that can't be removed. For example, Dumpsters should have a locking metal top that prevents access by bears, and beehives and livestock should be protected with an electric fence. To avoid bear-related conflicts, prevent bears from visiting and, most of all, from getting in the habit of finding food on your property."

Feeding bears is not only a bad idea, it may get you into legal trouble. State law prohibits the purposeful or inadvertent feeding of black bears following a determination by Fish and Game that the feeding increases the likelihood of human injury or property damage.

Homeowners should take action to reduce the chances of a bear visiting their home. Avoid encounters with bears by taking a few simple precautions:

  • 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, adequate storage area or locking metal-top Dumpster, 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.
  • Finally, never intentionally feed bears!

These steps will help to ensure that your backyard does not become attractive to bears and other wildlife, which is important because it prevents property damage by bears and because it keeps bears from becoming nuisance animals.

"It is important that all New Hampshire residents and visitors do their part to prevent conflicts with bears. Preventative actions will lessen the chance of bears causing property damage and are essential to maintaining the state's strong bear population," Calvert said. "There is some truth to the adage that 'a fed bear is a dead bear.' Once they get used to relying on human food sources in your backyard, some bears may need to be destroyed."

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

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).

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