If the bears in your area aren’t up and about yet, they will be soon. Why wait until a bear is checking out your bird feeder, pet food or garbage? A few hours of prevention now can help keep bears out in the wild and away from homes and neighborhoods.

Let’s Talk Trash

Litter Patrol

Empty bottles, cans, and bags still smell like food. Picking up all that stuff that mysteriously appeared over the winter will remove attractants and give you a chance to look over your property and remember what’s on your spring to-do list.

Time for a Bath

Anything that holds garbage emits smells that can attract bears. Give all your containers a good bath and spray inside with a disinfectant or ammonia. Don’t use lemon-scented trash can liners or tape fruity air fresheners inside the lid; they smell like the real thing to a bear.

Lock It or Lose It

An overflowing trash container makes it easy for a bear to score lot of calories for very little work. In early spring, most bears are still losing weight and working hard to find food, so the all-you-can-scrounge buffet is even more appealing. Bears are very smart; if they find a big reward and nothing bad happens, they’ll be back for more. Tested and certified bear-resistant containers (BRCs) are a great choice if your trash haulers can pick them up. Or check out ways to create your own. Learn more.

Become a Morning Person

In neighborhoods where some people don’t secure their trash, the local bears often learn what night the trash goes out and show up for the midnight buffet. This makes a big mess for people to clean up. Even worse, it teaches bears they can rely on us for food. If bear-resistant containers aren’t an option, store trash in a secure locked building or enclosure until the morning of pickup.

BearWise Spring Cleaning Check List

1. Patios and Decks

Did you have winter cookouts or gather around the fire pit to roast hot dogs and marshmallows? Bits of food left on the grates or in the ashes are still appealing. To a bear. After you clean up any scraps and trash, give your BBQ grill a good spring cleaning. Check under decks and porches and make sure there’s nothing stashed down there you’ve forgotten about. If a bear moved in over the winter, call your state wildlife agency.

2. Pet Food

Pet food is full of calories and smells like dinner. Feed pets inside if possible. If you must feed pets outside, deep-clean the area, feed in single portions and remove food and bowls after each feeding. Store pet food where bears can’t see, smell or reach it (on or under your deck or inside your screened-in porch doesn’t count).

3. Bird Feeders

If you fed birds over the winter, stop putting out birdseed or other treats at the first sign that bears are active again. If migrating birds really depend on you, switch to hull-less birdseed and bring feeders inside every night. Clean up around the feeder and download our BearWise Bulletin on How to Attract Birds, Not Bears.

4. Garages and Sheds

Are you storing stuff in your garage and sheds that could attract a bear?  Secure or move pet food, birdseed, canned foods and beverages and whatever looks interesting or smells good. If you stored all your summer gear, empty and clean out back packs and bike bags. There’s probably at least one energy bar or scented lip balm buried in there.

5. Cars and Trucks

Bears can be attracted by something as innocuous as an empty candy bar wrapper or soda can. Bears can easily peel down a window that’s cracked open or let themselves in to most unlocked vehicles but have a tough time letting themselves out. If you park vehicles outside, give them a good spring cleaning. Add a litter bag or small removable wastebasket and it will be a lot easier to keep vehicles clean and attractant-free. Fruity air fresheners attract bears; odorless or pine-scented ones are the safest bet.

Thanks for doing your part to make it a BearWise spring. Please pass this along to your neighbors. Or even better, organize a neighborhood clean-up day and pass out free handouts from the BearWise store.


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