February 24, 2018
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Maine wildlife department offers tips on avoiding conflicts with bears

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A black bear scratches his neck on a plant in his enclosure in the Maine Wildlife Park in Gray, Maine, on May 4, 2012. BDN File Photo by Aislinn Sarnacki

AUGUSTA, Maine — The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife reminds homeowners that bears may be attracted to bird feeders, garbage cans, dumpsters and grills in their backyards this spring, where food or the odor of food is prevalent.

When bears emerge from their winter dens in April throughout Maine, natural food is not readily available to them. That means bears may be encountered in backyards where bird feeders and garbage containers provide them with easy access to food.

The number of bear conflicts usually diminishes during late summer when berries begin to ripen, making it easier for bears to find natural food.

“The black bear may be a well-known symbol of Maine, but residents must keep their distance when they see these animals,” said Gov. Paul R. LePage in a press release. “We want to keep everyone safe if they happen to encounter any of Maine’s wildlife.”

Last year, which included a premature spring, the Maine Warden Service received 870 bear-related complaints, compared to 395 in 2010 and 436 in 2011.

To avoid conflicts with black bears, it is imperative that homeowners take these precautions:

  • Take down bird feeders between April 1 and Nov. 1; rake up and dispose of bird seed on the ground; and store remaining bird seed indoors.
  • Keep garbage cans inside until the morning of trash pickup; keep dumpster lids closed and latched and never overfill them; and dumpsters with plastic lids aren’t bear proof and should be kept in a secure building or protected by fencing.
  • Remember to burn off any food residue, dispose of wrappers and clean the grilling area after using your grill; store grill inside when not in use; and if you are having bear problems, stop grilling for one to two weeks so the bear will move on to another food source.
  • Store pet and livestock foods inside and be sure to clean up any uneaten food.
If you do encounter a bear:
  • Make loud noises, such as banging pots together, to try to scare it off.
  •  You should always back away from the bear to give it an escape route. Without an escape route, a cornered bear may charge.
  •  Remember to stay at a safe distance or in a safe location when photographing a bear.

By taking these precautions, homeowners are more likely to prevent conflicts that could pose a danger to human life or require corrective action such as moving or killing a bear.

For more information, visit www.mefishwildlife.com.