Taking action now can reduce bear problems later

As longer daylight hours and warming temperatures start wildlife moving, the DNR reminds Michigan residents that now is the time to look at their property for items that could attract bears.

Bears find bird seed and suet – high-calorie and reliable, compared to other plentiful and natural food sources – especially attractive. Bird feeders can draw bears beyond their natural habitat, where they normally would be enjoying the roots of early spring plants and insects in trees and logs. Taking feeders down now, before bears can find them, can prevent future problems.

“While it is legal to feed the birds, you may be creating an irreversible safety issue by providing food for bears,” said Ashely Autenrieth, acting bear specialist with the DNR. “Bears that receive a food reward when around homes, yards and neighborhoods typically lose their natural fear of humans and can become a potential threat to people and their pets.”

Autenrieth said residents can help their communities by removing bird feeders and other attractants, and offered some tips:

Remove potential food sources, like bird feeders, from your yard. Avoid feeding birds in the spring, summer and fall, when bears are most active.

Keep pet foods inside or in a secured area.

Keep garbage in a secured area or secured container. Keep garbage and odor at a minimum by removing trash often and cleaning containers with disinfectant.

Keep grills and picnic tables clean.

Protect apiaries (beehives), fruit trees and gardens with electric fencing.

“For your safety, never intentionally feed or try to tame bears – it is in your, and the bear’s, best interest,” Autenrieth said. “It is critical that bears retain their natural fear of humans.”

Learn more about Michigan’s black bears and how to prevent potential problems by visiting Michigan.gov/Bear or by watching “The Bear Essentials” video. For additional assistance with bear conflicts, contact your local DNR wildlife biologist.