MDIFW offers advice on reducing bear conflicts

5 July 2012

AROOSTOOK COUNTY- Due to a higher than normal number of bear-related complaints this year in Maine, the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife wants to remind the public how to best avoid bear conflicts. 

c479259_m

This year’s premature spring caused bears to emerge from their dens earlier, meaning they have been searching for food longer.

Between January 1and July 3 of this year, the Maine Warden Service received 542 bear-related complaints, compared to 292 in the same period of 2010 and 252 in 2011.

The majority of bear conflicts can be avoided if homeowners remove common backyard attractants such as birdseed and garbage from their property.

“Our goal is to prevent bears from being comfortable finding foods in people’s backyards by advising residents to remove bear attractants,” said Jennifer Vashon, a black bear biologist with the department. “A bear on a porch or deck is alarming but often occurs because there are food items there.”

To avoid attracting bears to your property, take these precautions with birdfeeders, garbage and grills:

Birdfeeders

-        The only way to avoid bears from visiting birdfeeders in backyards and on porches and decks is to remove the birdfeeders or make them inaccessible.

-        People are also reminded to rake up any seed from the ground and to store unused seed in a secure building

Garbage

-        Trash that is brought to the curb the night before trash pickup is an easily accessible source of food for bears.

-        Once bears access your garbage, they may become bolder and begin visiting the area during the day in search of food.

-        People should wait until the morning of trash pickup to bring their trash to the curb and should store trash in a secure building that can’t be opened by a bear.

-        Garbage dumpsters should not be overfilled so they are able to be closed and latched at all times.

-        If you are experiencing problems with a bear accessing your dumpster, you can install a bear-proof lid, store the dumpster behind a fence or increase trash pickup.

Grills

-        If possible, store grills inside when not in use.

-        Remember to burn off any food residue, dispose of wrappers and clean the grilling area after use.

If you do encounter a bear, you should make loud noises, such as banging pots together, to try to scare it off.

You should also back away from the bear to give it an escape route. Without an escape route, a cornered bear may charge.

People are also reminded to turn on outdoor lights before going outside and stay in a safe location at a distance if photographing a bear.

By taking these precautions, homeowners are more likely to prevent conflicts that could pose a danger to human life or require corrective action such as moving or killing a bear.

“Although black bear attacks are relatively uncommon, bears that are comfortable finding food in backyards and communities could result in human injury or death,” Vashon said. “A bear that is surprised or a bear that becomes dependent on human sources of food and becomes bolder in their search for food can be potentially dangerous. Homeowners can prevent this situation from occurring by following our recommendations to remove bear attractants in their backyards.”  

The number of bear conflicts usually diminishes when berries begin to ripen, making it easier for bears to find natural food.