I live in a small New Hampshire town and my house is surrounded my lots of woods. The area trails and back roads make great places to walk and observe wildlife, but to tell you the truth I am a bit afraid of encountering a black bear.
I know that they will most likely be more afraid of me, but my concern is that I will startle one or see a cub whose mother will think I mean it harm.
The first time I had seen a black bear in the wild was in my yard 4 years ago. I had left the bird feeders out too far into Spring, and we looked out to see a mother and two small (adorable) cubs skirting the woods of the yard. We thought it was pretty cool to see bears, but my son started crying (he’s very afraid of bears) and at the time I didn’t realize it was my bird seed they were after.
Not long after that I was sitting in a chair by the window at about 10pm and had the back light on when I caught a glimpse of movement and saw a large black bear amble past me and up onto the porch. When I got to the back door I realized that there were 2 of them and I made noise to chase them off. One took off into the woods and the other climbed a nearby pine tree.
Not long after, maybe the next morning, I woke up to bent shepherds hooks and broken feeders. I had grown up in Massachusetts and never saw a bear near my house and I was new to living this far out in the wilderness in the north.
It was time to read up on the bears and wildlife in my area. Although it was cool to say I’d seen a bear in my yard, I realized that it was not unusual for my neighbors to have seen bears. Stories of snatched feeders and destroyed chicken coops made me realize that they were numerous …and hungry!
So I learned. I have discovered that feeding the birds in winter- throughout the snowy season – is fine. The bears are hibernating mostly and won’t be a bother. I’ve read that feeding birds in summer is okay too if the feeders are taken in at night, but I found that they will come in mid-day as well to steal thistle seed from the goldfinches…so no daytime feeders either. I’ve even had one swipe my hummingbird feeder!
Birds are totally capable of finding food for themselves in non-winter months, and bears are wild animals that are best left in the wild. Having food around – such as birdseed -invites them to the yard and they cannot get used to having us humans feed them (that is how they see it), or they will come to depend on it.
A local man wrote a column in our town paper about this subject. He said that adult bears who come to depend on eating from humans won’t teach it’s cubs to hunt for their usual wild food and the bears will die. He said that a “fed bear is a dead bear”. So keep that in mind. I sure will.