AUGUSTA — Maine has the largest population of black bears in the lower 48 states, and they’re most active April through November. When natural foods is scarce, especially in the spring or dry summers, bears will venture into backyards in search of easily accessible food such as bird feeders, garbage, grills and pet food.
While hundreds of conflicts between bears and people are reported each year in Maine, many can be prevented by removing or securing common bear attractants.
Removing food sources will also limit other backyard visitors, like raccoons and skunks.
The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife offer these steps to keep black bear conflicts at bay:
* SECURE GARBAGE AND RECYCLING: Food and food odors attract bears, so don’t encourage them with easily available food, liquids or garbage. Store garbage cans inside until the morning of trash pickup.
* REMOVE AND STORE BIRD FEEDERS: Birdseed and grains have lots of calories, so they’re very attractive to bears. Removing feeders is the best way to avoid damage to your feeders and property. Rake up any seed from the ground and store bird feeders and bird seed inside. Even an empty bird feeder can be enticing to a bear and they will tear it down, damage or destroy it. You can continue to feed birds in the winter when bears are not active.
* NEVER LEAVE PET FOOD OUTDOORS: Feed pets indoors when possible. If you must feed pets outside, feed in single portions and remove food and bowls after feeding. Store pet food inside where bears can’t see or smell it.
* CLEAN AND STORE YOUR GRILL: Clean grills after each use and make sure that all grease, fat and food particles are removed. Store clean grills and smokers in a secure building to keep bears out.
See bears in the area or evidence of bear activity? Tell your neighbors and share information with them on how to avoid bear conflicts. Once a bear discovers an easy food source, it will return and cause damage to your property, the IF&W said.