Andrew Timmins: (603) 788-3164
Jane Vachon: (603) 271-3211
March 4, 2010

bear raiding birdfeeder

Warm Weather Has Some Bears Out and About Already:
Take Your Birdfeeders Down -- And Save A Bear!

CONCORD, N.H. -- Early spring-like conditions across New Hampshire have caused bears to get a jump start on spring.  Recent bear activity has been mostly concentrated in the more southern part of New Hampshire, but reports from the entire state are likely in the coming weeks.  Spring marks the period when bears emerge from dens and begin foraging to replenish fat reserves depleted during the long winter denning period.  Natural foods are scarce this time of year, so it is critical for homeowners to take action now to reduce the chances of attracting bears.

Denning behavior by bears is primarily a response to periods of food shortage.  Bear foods are scare from late fall until spring, which coincides with the typical bear denning season in New Hampshire.  Weather also plays a role, as this behavior allows bears to conserve energy during the winter months.  With the lack of snow and recent warming temperatures, it is likely bears will become active earlier this spring.

“To prevent attracting a bear to your residence, it is essential to take down your bird feeders and put them away until next winter, despite the fact that the recommended deadline for taking down feeders is nearly a month away,” says Andy Timmins, Bear Project Leader for New Hampshire Fish and Game.  “This isn’t about bird feeders or bird watching, it’s about the safety and well-being 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.”

Last year, 681 bear complaints were documented in New Hampshire.  More than half of these complaints were related to bears causing property damage. "Most of these incidents were caused by the presence of bird seed or garbage at the residence and could have been easily avoided if these attractants were removed,” said Timmins.

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%.  Bears coming out of their dens are readily attracted to human-related foods.  

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 the time bears emerge from their dens, which is happening early this year because of the warm weather.
  • 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.   
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 (2009), Wildlife Services fielded 2,062 wildlife-related requests for assistance, almost a full third (32%) 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 statewide black bear population is considered relatively stable -- thanks to careful management by Fish and Game -- and currently is about 4,800 bears.

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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