On March 16, 2022

Bears are coming out of hibernation early — take the bird feeders down

The Vermont Fish & Wildlife Dept. said the recent warm spring weather and melting snows is causing bears to come out of their winter dens in search of food. The department released recommendations Monday, March 14, to take down bird feeders and keep them stored until December, to avoid attracting bears.

“Although we typically recommend taking down bird feeders by April 1, we are asking Vermonters to take them down early this year,” said Jaclyn Comeau, the department’s bear biologist.

The department is already receiving bear reports as of March 7, and encourages Vermonters who experience a conflict with bears to submit a report through the Living with Black Bears web page. Because warmer temperatures are forecast now for the upcoming days and weeks, more bears are expected to emerge from their dens to seek any food sources they can smell.

“Preventing bears from having access to human-related foods, such as bird seed, is key to successful coexistence,” Comeau added.

Bird feeders are just one of the things that can attract hungry bears.  Other sources of food that bears find appealing are garbage, open dumpsters, backyard chickens, pet food, barbecue grills, campsites with accessible food, and food waste.

“Purposely feeding a bear is not just bad for the bear,” said Comeau. “It is also dangerous for you, it causes problems for your neighbors, and it is illegal.”

The department offers the following tips to coexist with bears:

  • Take down birdfeeders between late March and December.
  • Store garbage in bear proof containers or structures—trash cans alone are not enough.
  • Follow the steps on our web page for composting in bear country.
  • Use electric fences to keep chickens and honeybees safe.
  • Request a bear-proof dumpster from your waste hauler.
  • Feed your pets indoors.
  • Never feed bears, deliberately or accidentally.

And for Vermonters who wish to connect with and appreciate songbirds after taking down their birdfeeders this spring, the department will be partnering with Audubon Vermont to highlight alternatives like the Native Plants for Birds Program.

“Birds and native plants co-evolved over millions of years together,” said Gwendolyn Causer, Audubon Vermont’s communication coordinator and environmental educator.

“Native plants provide essential food resources for birds year-round and also host protein-rich native butterfly and moth caterpillars, the number one food for songbird nestlings.  And best of all, they do not attract bears.”

To help better understand people’s interactions with bears and inform measures for coexistence with this species, the department asks Vermonters to submit reports of bears engaging in potentially dangerous behavior like targeting bird feeders or garbage bins, feeding on crops or livestock, or investigating campgrounds or residential areas, through our website’s Living with Black Bears tab (vtfishandwildlife.com/learn-more/living-with-wildlife/living-with-black-bears).

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