Mark Ellingwood: (603) 271-2461
Liza Poinier: (603) 271-3211
June 28, 2007
Have a Bear-Free Independence Day
CONCORD, N.H. -- With everyone's favorite barbecue-related holiday right around the corner, 4th of July revelers should remember to keep their backyards and campsites free from bear attractants. "New Hampshire's black bears know that some places provide easy meals in the form of bird feeders, garbage containers and unsecured coolers," said Andrew Timmins, NH Fish and Game's Bear Project Leader. "Homeowners and campers can prevent bear visits by taking simple steps like bringing in bird feeders and pet bowls, putting barbecue grills in the garage, or, if car camping, keeping all food and coolers in a vehicle with the windows rolled up."
When selecting a campsite for the holiday weekend, Timmins suggests that campers consider choosing a campground that uses bear-proof Dumpsters. "Many campgrounds in New Hampshire have done a great job reducing attractants around their facilities, which substantially reduces the chance of a conflict with bears," he said.
Timmins asks all New Hampshire residents and visitors to do their part to prevent conflicts with bears. "Preventative actions will avoid the chances of bears causing property damage and are essential to maintaining the state's strong bear population," Timmins says. "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 'nuisance' bears may need to be destroyed. If you are intentionally feeding bears, you may be contributing to their death. Don't do it!"
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 creating a public nuisance, human injury or property damage.
Complaints about the presence of bears have been on the increase this spring and summer, according to Fish and Game Wildlife Damage Specialist, Rob Calvert, who works in partnership with damage specialists from U.S.D.A. Wildlife Services, on a joint statewide wildlife damage control program. "In some urban areas, even Durham and other southeastern towns, we're seeing a lot of bear activity," he said. "It's not unusual, because bears will seek out the highest quality foods they can find. If the best-smelling stuff is in a garbage can behind a restaurant, a bear could easily be tempted."
This period of summer represents a somewhat lean time for bears, according to Timmins. "The beechnuts and acorns that fell last fall have turned into woody sprouts that are now unattractive to bears," he said. "Although the wild strawberries have begun to ripen in recent days, the bulk of the important summer fruits that provide feed for bears will not become available until a few weeks from now." This period of low food abundance, noted Timmins, causes bears to search out and utilize high quality and 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.
Take action to reduce the chances of a bear visiting your home or campsite with these 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 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!
These steps will help to ensure that your backyard or campsite does not become attractive to bears and other wildlife, which is important because it prevents property damage by bears and it keeps bears from becoming "nuisance" animals.
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).