Be a good neighbor: Please don’t feed bears

Posted May 11, 2009, at 10:37 p.m.

In July, a wayward black bear startled residents of a quiet Bangor neighborhood with an early morning jaunt that ended up poorly for the bear, which was shot by a Maine game warden.

Bears (and other assorted critters) are among us, of course. That’s one of the reasons many of us choose to live here.

Giving those bears reasons to venture too close to homes and neighborhoods, however, is a bad idea.

And all of us can help.

The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife recently sent out a press release that warned Mainers about bears, and itemized a few simple steps we can take to minimize the chances of having unexpected furry visitors drop by for a bite.

Late last week I spoke with Jennifer Vashon, the state’s lead bear biologist, who reiterated some of those points.

Vashon said that complaints about bears are seasonal for a good reason.

“Bears come out of their dens in April, so we start seeing a flurry of activity, of people complaining about bears in their backyards, about then,” Vashon said. “It will continue on through July because of the lack of natural foods. As the berry crops come on we see a diminishing of problems with bears in people’s backyards.”

Until the bears begin chomping berries, it’s up to us to avoid providing other options.

“Probably the [three] biggest attractants to black bears making themselves at home in someone’s backyard [are] birdseed and trash and pet foods,” Vashon said.

Her advice is simple: Take in your bird feeder (or, at the very least, take it inside each evening) so that bears can’t sneak into your yard for a late-night snack. Rake up any seed that has fallen on the ground. Avoid leaving pet food outside.

And take care of your trash.

“A lot of people like to put out their trash the night before pickup,” Vashon said. “What we encourage people to do is to wait until the day of pickup to put out their trash.”

But as Vashon explained, it doesn’t do a neighborhood much good if some of its residents are wary of bears. It doesn’t do the neighborhood much good if most of its residents are wary of bears.

Everyone has to be on the same page.

“One of the things you need to be doing is talking to your neighbors to find out if neighbors are doing what you’re doing, because it’s really a community-based approach,” Vashon said. “If your neighbors have bird feeders or other attractants, you could be seeing bears in your backyard or around your neighborhood because of that.”

All of which is bad for you … and for the bears.

Youth-day double

One of the DIF&W’s unqualified successes in recent years has been the formation of youth hunting days.

Junior hunters get a day of their own to hunt deer, waterfowl and turkeys, and thousands of Maine youngsters have taken advantage of the opportunity.

On May 2, this year’s crop of junior turkey hunters headed afield for Youth Turkey Day, and a pair of local teens enjoyed a day to remember.

Evan Pelkey, 14, who lives in Orrington and Hampden, and his friend, 15-year-old Dayna DeTour of Orrington, teamed up to bag two turkeys during their shared hunt.

Evan’s mother, Sheryl Colvin, said the duo is hunting together for the second straight year, and each shot a bird that weighed about 12 pounds while accompanied by their fathers, Donald Pelkey and Shawn DeTour.

Evan Pelkey, who is an eighth-grader at Center Drive School, waited for his friend to shoot her first bird, then bagged the fourth turkey of his young career. Dayna DeTour is a freshman at John Bapst Memorial High School in Bangor.

Congratulations to both young hunters!

Baxter tote road opens

If you’re one of the thousands of Mainers who loves spending time in Baxter State Park, and you’ve been waiting for an “all-clear” signal before planning an adventure, your wait is over … kind of.

Baxter State Park officials announced in a press release that portions of the 50-mile-long Tote Road were opened on Monday.

The road is open from Togue Pond Gate to Foster Field, and outdoors enthusiasts will be able to access trailheads at Abol Campground, Katahdin Stream and the Kidney Pond and Daicey Pond areas. In addition, the Roaring Brook Road is open to the public.

If you’re looking to hike up Maine’s tallest mountain, you’re going to have to wait a bit longer, however.

Park officials say all Katahdin access trails are closed due to snow and unstable soil conditions. Lower-elevation options including South Turner Mountain, Katahdin Lake Trail, and the trails adjacent to the Appalachian Trail below Katahdin Stream Campground are open to hiking.

Farther north in Baxter State Park, the Tote Road is open from the Matagamon Gatehouse to Trout Brook Crossing, including the South Branch Pond Road.

According to the Baxter State Park press release, Chief Ranger Ben Woodard expects a normal May 15 opening day for park campgrounds. Trail conditions at Katahdin and other backcountry locations will be monitored by rangers before being opened to the public.

Park officials advise visitors to call park headquarters at 723-5140 for information before venturing into the park. Information is also available at www.baxterstateparkauthority.com.

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