JOHN HOLYOKE: POLL QUESTION

Active bears have caught DIF&W’s eye

A black bear scratches his neck on a plant in his enclosure in the Maine Wildlife Park in Gray in May 2012.
A black bear scratches his neck on a plant in his enclosure in the Maine Wildlife Park in Gray in May 2012. Buy Photo
Posted July 06, 2012, at 11:56 a.m.
Last modified July 06, 2012, at 1:19 p.m.

Poll Question

Kevin Dunham (right) hands fellow Department of Marine Resources fisheries biologist Mitch Simpson an Atlantic salmon, one of nine they retrieved at Veazie salmon trap during their visit to the Veazie Dam in May 2010. On the left is Andrew O’Malley, a UMaine environmental science major. Trap returns at the Veazie Dam this year have been sluggish, with only 584 salmon having been captured as Tuesday, July 3.
Kevin Dunham (right) hands fellow Department of Marine Resources fisheries biologist Mitch Simpson an Atlantic salmon, one of nine they retrieved at Veazie salmon trap during their visit to the Veazie Dam in May 2010. On the left is Andrew O’Malley, a UMaine environmental science major. Trap returns at the Veazie Dam this year have been sluggish, with only 584 salmon having been captured as Tuesday, July 3. Buy Photo

Several months ago — about the time bears crawled out of their dens and started looking for some tasty grub — the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife issued a few guidelines that would help us avoid close encounters with the hungry bruins.

Alas, many of us paid no heed. The bears came. They saw. They ate whatever we left them.

And then we (or, more accurately, many our fellow Mainers, because you and I would surely never have given these bears reason to visit) threw up their hands and called for help.

Although there’s plenty of bear chow out in the woods right now, including some downright tasty berries, Doug Rafferty of the DIF&W filed another update this week, reminding us (again) to stop feeding (again) the bears.

And Rafferty, the DIF&W’s director of information and education, spelled out just how severe the human-bear problem has been this year. (Notice, I said “human-bear,” rather than “bear-human,” because … well … most of the problems are our fault. The bears are just being bears.

“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,” Rafferty wrote in a department press release.

“This year’s premature spring caused bears to emerge from their dens earlier, meaning they have been searching for food longer,” the release stated. “Between January 1 and 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.”

So, the bears are out there. And they’re getting so close to our homes and property that we’ve decided to call in reinforcements.

Instead, why don’t we all listen to biologist Jennifer Vashon and stop giving the bears a reason to visit.

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

So here (again) are a few ways to keep bears at bay. Notice: “Calling a game warden” is not on the list. That’s a last resort — one that needn’t happen if you and your neighbors follow these simple guidelines from the DIF&W:

• The only way to avoid bears from visiting bird feeders in backyards and on porches and decks is to remove the bird feeders 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.

• 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 cans 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.

• 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.

Salmon returns sluggish

After a banner year in 2011, Atlantic salmon returns on the Penobscot River have been sluggish for much of the spring and summer thus far in 2012.

Mitch Simpson, a biologist for the Maine Bureau of Sea-Run Fisheries and Habitat, which tends the trap at the Veazie Dam, issued his weekly report on Tuesday, and pointed out that high water due to rainstorms in the area had forced his colleagues to close the trap for four days.

When they reopened it on Monday, 22 salmon were captured. That put the yearly total at 584 fish. By the same date in 2011, a whopping 2,851 salmon had been trapped. You’d have to go back to 2007 (556 fish) to find a year that had a slower start.

Also illustrating this year’s lower-than-hoped-for returns: During the 1980s, staffers collected an average of 31 salmon per day at the Veazie trap. During the 1990s, they averaged 30 fish a day. In the decade of the 2000s, the averaged dropped to 19 fish per day.

This year, staffers are catching just nine fish per day, on average.

Here’s hoping for better days ahead.

John Holyoke may be reached at jholyoke@bangordailynews.com or 990-8214. Check out his blog at outthere.bangordailynews.com and follow him on Twitter @JohnHolyoke.

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