Chances are you may start noticing signs of bear activity sometime in March when some bears emerge from their dens. And many bears will be up and about and looking for food and water before the Easter Bunny arrives. So, it’s a great time to think about what worked and what could have worked better last year and make sure you’ve done everything you can to discourage hungry bears from paying you a springtime visit.
Going for a Walk?
There’s nothing like heading out for an early morning or evening stroll and bumping into a bear searching for breakfast. If you’re walking around the neighborhood, in a park or out in the woods, pay attention to your surroundings, keep your dog on a leash, and if you do surprise a bear, don’t let your dog chase or harass it. Just back away and leave the area. Whether you’re walking with a dog, someone else or by yourself, it’s always a good idea to carry a safety whistle or other noisemaker and a can of bear spray just in case. And check the expiration date on your bear spray to see if it’s time to replace it.
Check Garages, Porches, Decks and Outbuildings
Do you have an unlocked garage, shed or outbuilding where you’re storing anything that might look or smell good to a bear? This includes all manner of pet food, bird seed, deer corn and livestock feed, along with human food, unwashed BBQ grills and even things like antifreeze that are definitely not good to eat (antifreeze smells and tastes sweet but is actually highly poisonous in very small quantities to both people and bears.) Double bag and store open antifreeze responsibly; never put in the garbage. Check with your local authorities on how to recycle.
Your screened-in porch is not “inside” and under your deck is not “out of sight and smell” to a bear. Don’t leave food, pet food, or anything else with an odor on or under your porch or deck overnight.
What’s in Your Vehicle?
If you park vehicles outside, don’t leave anything inside that could attract a bear – this can range from that bag of dog food you forgot to bring in to the pack of gum in your cup holder. In some areas bears have been attracted to vehicles by the enticing (to a bear) smells of empty cans, bottles, wrappers and trash. So, get in the habit of cleaning out your vehicles, rolling up windows and locking the doors.
Have you been putting out your trash and recycling the night before pickup? Stacking pizza boxes out by the back door? Chilling beverages on the back porch? Bears can literally smell that empty pizza box from a mile away. If you gave yourself a bear vacation over the worst of winter, it’s time to get back in the habit of keeping trash and recycling in a sturdy building or bear-resistant container until the morning of pick up.
Take Down Bird Feeders
If you’re still feeding birds, you could soon find something big, furry and hungry ripping down your feeder. So many calories, so easy to get at. Bears are super smart and fast learners, so please don’t tempt them with a feeder full of food. When you take down your feeders, remember to lock up or bring inside any bird seed or other treats you’ve been storing outside. Download the BearWise Bulletin #1: Attract Birds, Not Bears
Don’t Forget the Pet Food
Pet food is another super-concentrated, easily digestible source of thousands of calories – exactly what a bear is looking for after a long winter’s fast. Leaving pet food outside where bears can see or smell it is an invitation that can be hard for a hungry bear to resist. Feed pets indoors if at all possible. If you must feed them outside, feed in single portions only, remove bowls and food after feeding and store pet food inside in a secure location.
Help Out the Newbies and Neighbors
Have you got new residents who moved in over the winter and may not have met all their wild neighbors? Do them a big favor and help them get off on the right paw. Visit the BearWise store to download free information flyers or to order handy door hangers and magnets that make house calls for you.
Thanks for doing your part to make it a BearWise spring.