BANGOR, Maine — A small black bear, believed to be cub, crossed Interstate 95 near Forest Avenue around 4:50 p.m. Sunday and a person driving by called Maine State Police.
“We had a ton of bear calls today,” a state police dispatcher in Bangor said shortly afterward. “Lots of people call once they light their grills and put out their bird feeders.”
Maine Game Warden Jim Fahey said Sunday evening that he received three calls about bears — the most he’s ever had in one day — and took time to warn residents about how to prevent the hungry bears from becoming a nuisance.
“It’s great to view birds, but those feeders invite unwelcomed guests [such as] skunks, squirrels, chipmunks and bears,” he said. “The bears find them and they get a positive reward and they return [for more].”
People can be proactive to not attract bears by choosing another item to attract birds, such as bird baths or birdhouses, and by cleaning their grills, Fahey said.
Some people have tried removing the bird feeders at night, but the bears still smell the bird food and investigate, thinking they’re going to get a free meal, Fahey said.
“Trash is a big thing as well,” Game Warden Brad Richard said Sunday. “If there is a way to get rid of or store your trash inside, it helps so there is nothing for them to eat.”
A bear was spotted last week near the bird feeders at Princeton Elementary School and Richard set a trap to try to capture the nuisance bear. The bear visited the school on Tuesday and Wednesday and Richard installed the culvert-style nuisance trap Wednesday evening, filled with sweets snacks from the school’s cafeteria. The bear was caught before school Friday and later released in Aroostook County.
“By policy, we have to take them 60 miles away from where we capture them,” Richard said.
Once strawberries and other berries start to ripen, which starts around July, the number of nuisance bear calls drops dramatically, Fahey said.
“The bears will go to those natural sources” and calls decrease, he said. “We can plot it like clockwork.”
The Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife has posted the following suggestions on its website to make homes and communities less attractive to bears between April 1 and Nov. 1, when bears are most active. They suggest Mainers:
— Take down bird feeders, rake up and dispose of bird seed on the ground, and store remaining bird seed indoors. Although bringing your feeders in at night and raking up and disposing of bird seed on the ground can make your yard less attractive to a bear, a bear may visit your bird feeder during the day. If you are experiencing problems with bears, the only way to discourage the bear from returning is to remove all food items.
— Keep garbage cans inside until the morning of trash pickup.
— Keep lids on Dumpsters closed at all times and schedule frequent pickups to avoid overflowing garbage. If possible, use Dumpsters with metal lids and keep the Dumpster in a building or behind a fence.
— Keep your barbecue grill clean by burning off any food residue, disposing of wrappers and cleaning the grilling area after use. If possible, store grills inside when not in use.
— Store pet and livestock food inside, and clean up any uneaten food.
If you do encounter a bear, you should make loud noises, such as banging pots together, to try to scare it off. Always back away from the bear to give it an escape route. Without an escape route, a cornered bear may charge.
By taking these precautions, homeowners are more likely to prevent conflicts that could result in injuries or require corrective action, such as moving or killing a bear.
Homeowners who want a bear removed often don’t realize that when that is done, “typically it’s at the homeowner’s cost,” Fahey said.
“It’s in the best interest to identify the [food] attraction and remove it,” Fahey said. “Removing the attraction is very effective. Nobody wants a skunk or a bear.”
For more information, visit mefishwildlife.com.