Living in Bear Country!

Whether we like it or not, we are sharing our little part of nature with Black Bears. In order to prevent surprises and attacks we need to understand them, learn to live with them and respect that they have the right to live here too.

There are several reasons that encounters with these magnificent animals have become more prevalent, including the following:

1. Their population is increasing rapidly throughout North America with a 30% increase between 1988 and 1995. Their numbers rose from around 250,000 animals in the mid 1980's to around 450,000 in the mid 1990's. And this is despite hunting in many states, although I have heard this is a declining "sport". By now it may be almost 600,000 and it continues to grow. Also Black Bears are spreading back into states from which they have been extirpated.

2. We, as an urban society, are spreading more and more into forested habitats, especially here in the Southern Appalachians. We are building homes in what were pristine forests and cutting down vast tracts of woodland in order to build golf courses and other commercial "developments". This is prime wildlife habitat, so is it no wonder that bears are coming into closer contact with people.

In other words, we need to adapt our living to cope with bears around our property and these are some things we can do:

- Try our hot foods - hot pepper suet, cylinders, seed (Fiery Feast and SunFire Chips!) and dough.  Bears have very large mucous membranes and the hot taste from capsaicin (the active component of chili peppers) will turn them off from your food.  The good news is that the birds can't taste hot pepper food and in places like South America, they eat the seeds from chili peppers (there is a small amount of nutritional value they actually gain from hot pepper seeds).  Bears also have great memories, so if you train them that your "restaurant" is spicy, they will hopefully drop you from their route.
- Taking your bird feeders down before dusk and put them back out after dawn (we find setting a simple alarm/reminder on your phone each evening helps you remember to do this)
- Keep barbecues clean at all times.
- Do not leave bird or pet food outside.
- Keep our compost free from animal products or waste; use lime and turn regularly.
- Never put out more food than can be consumed by the birds in a single day.
- Do more ground and tray feeding as opposed to tube style feeders.
- If you have bear visits regularly, remove all seed for 3-5 days. Bears work on a "circuit" and they will repeatedly revisit areas where they have found food. A 3-5 day break from feeding should interrupt their circuit and get them to move on to a new area.

Here at Wild Birds Unlimited, we are committed to safe bird feeding as well as being bear aware in all aspects of our living and bird and wildlife watching activities.