asked bear questions
Are black bears dangerous?
Yes. Black bears are capable of killing people, but it is an extremely
rare occurrence. The last time someone was killed by a black bear
in New Hampshire was 1784. Black bears, like all wild animals, should
be treated as unpredictable animals. Campground or "panhandler"
bears may nip or cuff people that tease with food or crowd around
them. In the woods, black bears usually retreat before people are
aware of them; normal trail noise should alert bears to your presence.
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should I do if I encounter a bear?
If you see a bear, keep your distance. Make it aware of your presence
by clapping, talking, singing or making other sounds. If you get
too close to a bear, it may slap the ground, huff, blow and chomp
its teeth or rush you (this is referred to as "bluff charge")
in an attempt to get you to move a more comfortable distance away.
If this occurs, maintain eye contact with the bear, speak in a soft,
calm voice and slowly back away from the bear. These actions will
help appease the bear and show that you are not weak, but, at the
same time, not a threat to the bear. Do not run, avert your eyes
or turn your back to the bear. The bear may perceive weakness and
enforce dominance. The bear's bluff charge and chomping of teeth
are a defense mechanism to establish the bear's dominance in an
encounter with humans or a more dominant animal in the wild. Bears
can outrun, out-swim and out-climb you. If you are attacked by a
black bear, you should fight back rather than "play dead."
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do bears den? When will they come out in the spring?
For northern black bears, denning is an adaptation for escaping
winter food scarcity and severe winter weather. Bears are not true
hibernators, as they may be easily aroused from this state if disturbed.
While bears are in winter dens, body temperature drops 7-8 degrees
C, metabolism is reduced approximately 50%, heart rate decreases
from 40-50 beats/minute to 8-19 beats/minute, and body weight decreases
approximately 25%. Dens may be burrows, caves, hollow trees, wind-thrown
trees, slash piles or leaf nests on the ground. Annual food abundance;
the amount of stored body fat; the sex and age of the animal; and
weather conditions influence the timing and duration of denning.
In New Hampshire, bears typically enter dens between mid-October
and late November and emerge from dens during late March or early
April. During periods of winter thaws, male bears may occasionally
get up and move around until cold weather returns. <return
kind of bears live in New Hampshire?
The black bear is the only bear species in New Hampshire. Population
estimates range between 4,800 to 5,000 bears statewide. Regional
bear densities across the state range between 0.1-1.0 bears/square
mile and average 0.5 bears/square mile. <return
are bear cubs born?
Cubs are born in winter dens during January after a gestation period
of about 8 months. Newborn cubs are born hairless, with eyes closed,
measuring 6-8 inches in length, and weigh less than 1 pound. Cubs
stay with their mother for approximately 18 months and den with
her again during the following winter. When they are a year and
a half old, cubs leave their mothers prior to the June/July mating
season. <return to top>
should I do if I find myself around a mother bear with cubs?
Mother bears are rarely aggressive toward humans, but they are protective
of their cubs. A mother bear will usually give many warning signs
(huffing or popping sounds, swatting the ground or even bluff charges)
to let you know that you are too close. Move away as described above.
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do I protect livestock/poultry from bear predation?
Husbandry practices such as night penning poultry, and manipulation
of feed to avoid grain spillage or bear access to stored food, are
important tools in keeping livestock safe from bears and other predators.
Bears that become opportunistic predators can often be controlled
by the use of electric fencing. One strategy is to attach an electric
fence conductor with insulators to buildings or existing livestock
pens, then bait the wires with food; this will adversely condition
bears, causing them to avoid areas protected by electric fence.
For more information on predator fence configurations, call the
USDA Wildlife Service toll free number at 1-888-749-2327 (1-888-SHY-BEAR).
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a bear attack my dog?
Bears will not intentionally attack dogs, but they can sometimes
be startled or surprised by a dog if they are sneaking around a
house looking for birdfeeders or following the smell of pet food.
Bear will often run and tree when disturbed by dogs, but a parting
swat can't be ruled out in close quarters. An exception to this
would be a large male bear or sow with cubs, which may attempt to
fight rather than run away if cornered. Keep your dog on a leash
when walking your dog in areas of known bear activity. A mother
bear may chase an unleashed dog in the protection of her cubs. The
dog will probably run back to you for protection. <return
Is it legal to feed
People should not feed bears or accommodate their feeding through
improper food or garbage storage. Experience in New Hampshire indicates
that doing so can enhance the likelihood of property damage, bear/human
conflicts, or possibly result in bear behavior that leads to their
removal. Purposeful or inadvertant feeding that creates the likelihood
of human injury or property damage can result in your being issued
a fine, if the attractant is not removed following a request to
do so from a Conservation Officer.
and how can I safely feed birds when bears are around?
Finish your bird feeding activities by April 1 each year. Don't
begin feeding the birds again prior to December 1 or the onset of
prolonged winter weather (the birds will do just fine). Bears are
clever. This, coupled with their strength and agility, make it very
difficult to establish bear-proof bird feeders. Purposeful feeding
can result in bears getting accustomed to humans. This "habituation"
of bears may cause a variety of conflicts with humans. The end result
may be the removal (most often with lethal consequences) of the
offending bear. Encourage your bird-feeding friends and neighbors
to adhere to these guidelines. Be reminded that many people have
an irrational fear of bears. A black bear's presence in a residential
area may create fear among neighbors and lead to negative consequences
for the bear. Regardless of the dates specified above, if a bear
is active in your community, you should cease and desist all bird
feeding activity. Bears that have access to winter feeders will
sometimes remain active, visiting the feeder late into December,
and periodically, beyond. <return to top>
can I protect a beehive from bear attacks?
Modern beehives are viewed by bears as very manageable "bee
trees" and are hard for bears to pass up. Electric fencing
-- using a "net fence" or configured with 4 strands of
fence conductor spaced at 10 inches apart, and located at least
3 feet away from the hive -- can be very effective. Bears are very
sensitive to electric current, particularly if it's a wet nose or
tongue touching an electric fence while the bear is standing on
wet grass. In addition to fencing, avoid placing hives near areas
of known bear activity or areas where bears feel secure while foraging.
Place items such as beehives in areas where bears must risk decreased
security while investigating the attractant. This means avoiding
areas near streams and wetlands, power lines or wooded areas. Strapping
or stapling the hive supers together can minimize damage to the
honeybees' brood nest in cool or wet weather if the hive is knocked
over. It also allows the colony to better defend itself. For more
information on electric fence configurations, call the USDA Wildlife
Service toll free number at 1-888-749-2327 (1-888-SHY-BEAR).
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can I keep bears out of my garbage? How do I get a bear-proof dumpster?
Keep dumpster and trash containers secured at all times. Trash cans
should not be placed on the curb until the day of pickup. Until
then, all garbage containers should be secured in a well-constructed
shed, garage or basement. Double-bag smelly garbage and regularly
clean trash cans with a deodorizer like ammonia to reduce food odors
that attract bears. Additionally, consider using ammonia as a cover
scent for garbage odor by pouring and leaving a small amount of
ammonia in the trash can or by placing ammonia-soaked rags in the
garbage can. If bears are able to get into a shed used for storing
garbage, find a more secure location, remove all attractants and
spilled garbage, deodorize, then leave shed doors open to prevent
property damage. The bear will leave unrewarded and eventually learn
that the easy food source is gone. Bear-proof dumpsters can often
be obtained from your local dumpster provider if you are persistent.
The most common designs are metal tops that can be secured with
chain hooks, or side-access panels that can be closed securely.
Plywood covers and the means to stabilize smaller dumpsters are
also worth considering. <return to top>
do I prevent bears from bothering my campsite?
Always keep a clean camp. Don't leave any food, including condiments,
out when not in use. Hang food at least 10 feet high (and at least
4 feet from top and side supports), or store it in bear-resistant
units, hard-shelled vehicles or car trunks. Never eat in your tent.
Keep your sleeping area, tent and sleeping bag free of food and
odors. Never bury or burn food waste. In backcountry areas, your
sleeping area should be 100 yards from food storage and cooking
areas. If a bear comes into your camp, yell, bang pots and pans
and try to scare it away. Bears chase off easier before they obtain
food. <return to top>
good are bears?
Throughout history, humans have always been interested in black
bears. They occupy many places in our culture -- from Native American
ceremonies to Teddy bears. Bears have a very positive impact on
our environment. Because bears need a variety of habitats to thrive,
managing habitat for bears benefits many other species. As a result,
bears are a good indicator species of healthy wildlife habitat.
If a habitat supports bears, it will support many other creatures.
The bears themselves
affect the ecosystem in a multitude of ways. As predators, they
help control deer and moose populations; as scavengers they help
clean up carcasses; in their search for insects, they act as nutrient
recyclers; and by eating a variety of fruits, they help distribute
and sow fruiting trees and shrubs which are used by other animals.
Bears also hold some
secrets that are worthy of study -- such as the ability of denning
pregnant female bears to shut down their digestive and excretory
systems and still deliver and nurse as many as 5 cubs. Bears also
have significant economic value in many parts of the country; hunters,
photographers and wildlife enthusiasts all spend significant sums
of money in order to hunt or view bears. Hunters utilize harvested
bears as a highly prized source of food. Bears enrich our lives
in many ways and provide many useful functions. Perhaps the most
important function is the knowledge that if you live in an area
that can support a healthy bear population, that area is also healthy
enough to support you. <return to top>