bears eating at a NH birdfeeder
Sunflower seed is more nutritious than most foods a bear will find in the woods. Please remove birdfeeders by April 1.

Andrew Timmins: (603) 788-3164
Jane Vachon: (603) 271-3211
March 20, 2009

Take Your Birdfeeders Down -- And Save A Bear!

CONCORD, N.H. -- New Hampshire bears are waking up and heading out in search of food to replenish fat reserves depleted during the long winter denning period.  Natural foods are scarce this time of year, so it's critical for homeowners to take action now to reduce the chances of attracting a bear. 

"Late March is the time when we typically start seeing bear activity in New Hampshire.  To prevent attracting a bear to your residence, it is essential that bird feeders are taken down and put away until next winter," says Andy Timmins, Bear Project Leader for New Hampshire Fish and Game.  "This isn't about bird feeders, it's about the safety and wellbeing of black bears.  Bears that frequent homes for easy pickings often have a shorter life expectancy than bears that don't.  Take down your feeders and save a bear.

 "Given that sunflower seed is more nutritious than most foods a bear will find in the woods, it is easy to understand why some residences get visited by bears every spring," Timmins added. "Don't be fooled by the fact that several inches of snow still cover the ground across much of the state; snow depth has little influence on when bears decide to emerge from winter dens."

During the denning period, bears typically lose 25% of their body weight, and a lactating female with newborn cubs may lose as much as 40%.  Post-denning bears are readily attracted to human related foods.   The statewide black bear population is considered relatively stable -- thanks to careful management by Fish and Game -- and currently is about 4,800 bears.

Homeowners should take action to reduce the chances of a bear visiting their home.
Prevent bear visits by taking a few simple precautions:

  • Stop all bird feeding by April 1, which is when most bears have ceased denning.
  • 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.
  • NEVER intentionally feed bears!

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

 "The surest way to avoid bear/human conflicts is to keep your yard free of attractants.  You may need to take additional steps. 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," says Timmins. 

For more information on preventing conflicts with black bears, visit

If you have questions about bear-related problems, you can get technical advice by calling the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Wildlife Services, located in Concord, N.H., at the following toll-free number: 1-888-749-2327 (1-888-SHY-BEAR).  

USDA Wildlife Services works in partnership with the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department to minimize wildlife-human conflicts, including those associated with black bears.  Last year, Wildlife Services fielded 1,904 wildlife-related requests for assistance, the biggest percentage (24%) of which were related to bears.  Each year, Wildlife Services also hires two bear technicians in New Hampshire during May through August, when the majority of bear complaints are received.  These bear technicians, in partnership with N.H. Fish and Game Department field staff, work closely with the general public to educate them regarding bear behavior and to directly resolve bear-human conflicts.  

The New Hampshire Fish and Game Department is the guardian of the state's fish, wildlife and marine resources and their habitats.  Visit

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