Be Bear Aware
Reduce Human/Bear Conflicts
The availability of attractants increases the number of human/bear conflicts. By taking simple measures, you can reduce conflicts at your home and in your neighborhood.
Bears must gain enough weight during the warm months to sustain them through hibernation. Bears are opportunivores, if something smells interesting around a home, bears will investigate. If it provides much needed calories, bears will return and check out other homes for food rewards. Bears that obtain human food sources like birdseed or garbage are considered food-conditioned and tend to investigate porches and enter buildings in search of food. This can cause property damage and human/bear conflicts. By securing attractants on your property, you can keep bears wild, reduce conflicts, and improve the safety of both humans and bears.
Remember loud noise, such as banging pots and pans, using an air horn or your car alarm, or shouting, is a simple, effective, short-term way to deter a bear on private property. Always remain a safe distance from bears and work to secure attractants so they do not return.
▶ Video: Living with Bears
- Secure garbage by acquiring a bear resistant garbage container and use it properly.
- If a bear resistant container is not available, garbage should be stored in a sturdy, hard-sided building (four walls, roof, and a door with latch) away from doors and windows and brought down the morning of pickup. Check with your local disposal company for pickup times.
- Bird feeders should be taken down in the spring and not put up until bears are hibernating (usually by mid-December, but if it is warm, it can be later).
- If you cannot live without a bird feeder, consider electric fencing around the area. Keep in mind that bird feeders in the East are spreading diseases among birds—it could happen here.
- Attract birds to your yard in spring and summer with other means:
- Use bird baths and keep them clean.
- Plant bird friendly plants: sunflowers, coneflowers, asters, and marigolds are a few. Avoid fruit trees, nuts, and berry trees that will attract bears.
- Provide perches and safe nesting areas or boxes.
Feed and Pet Food
- Keep feed and pet food in secure containers or buildings such as a hard-sided building, shed, or barn with a securable door or in a steel drum with a locking lid or in a bear resistant container.
- Feed pets indoors. Avoid feeding areas near pet doors.
Barbeques, Coolers, and Outdoor Freezers
- Barbeques should be kept clean and stored in a secure building when not in use.
- Coolers, freezers, and refrigerators should not be outside. They should be stored in a secure building (sturdy, hard-sided building with four walls, roof, and a door with latch) or electrified.
Chickens and Other Small Livestock
Chickens are very tempting to bears. Oddly enough bears are more interested in chicken feed than they are in the chickens! Bears are attracted to chicken coops because of scattered seed and unsecured feed. However, once bears discover chickens as food they will return for both feed and chickens. It is best to secure chicken coops with electric fencing. Keep feed in a sturdy building (hard-sided building with four walls, roof, and a door with latch) or electrified. Assistance grants for electric fencing are available through Defenders of Wildlife. Information on electric fencing found at Deterring Bears with Electrified Fencing: A Beginner’s Guide.
Beehives are very tempting to bears. To protect that great honey and your bees, set up electric fencing around apiaries. Assistance grants for electric fencing are available through Defenders of Wildlife. Information on electric fencing found at Deterring Bears with Electrified Fencing: A Beginner’s Guide.
Fruit Trees, Gardens, and Compost
Bears are attracted to fruit-bearing trees and bushes, gardens, and compost piles. Pick fruit immediately when ripe. Install electric fencing. Assistance grants for electric fencing are available through Defenders of Wildlife. Information on electric fencing found at Deterring Bears with Electrified Fencing: A Beginner’s Guide.
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Farmers and Livestock Producers
Tips to Protect You and Your Property from Bears
- Report livestock conflicts, contact USDA Wildlife Services
- Download the latest US Fish and Wildlife Service Hazing Guidelines
- Storing and removing attractants, such as grain spills, food waste, and scented products, reduces the likelihood that bears will learn to associate buildings, silos, and humans with food sources.
- Grain spills can be easily cleaned up if a tarp is placed under loaders when transferring grain between trucks and silos.
- Old grain should be disposed of through sanitation services, burning, or dumping away from people, buildings, and livestock.
- Do not leave out pet food or livestock feed, such as grain, sweet feed, or supplements.
- Secure chemicals such as pesticides, herbicides, biodiesel, and other products.
- Many attractants can be secured in a hard-sided building. Locks can easily be added to any door with a hasp, padlock, or carabineer. Screws or nails protruding out from the door can deter a bear. An unwelcome mat (piece of wood with nails facing up) can also deter a bear.
- Carcasses and afterbirth should be disposed of through sanitation services, in an electrified boneyard, or by distributing away from people, buildings, and livestock. Electric fence should be placed around carcass and bone piles until they can be removed.
- Install electric fence around vulnerable animals and non-removable attractants such as birthing grounds, sheep-bedding areas, bee aviaries, compost piles, gardens, fruit trees, berry bushes, and corn fields.
- Young, injured, sick, and/or weak animals should be kept away from areas with thick tree and shrub coverage, such as riparian areas (along streams, ponds, and drainages), from spring to fall when bears are more active and livestock are more vulnerable.
- Creep feeders, molasses, and mineral blocks should be placed in open areas where livestock can easily view the area before entering. Placement away from brush decreases the chance of livestock loss and reduces the chance of a bear using these products.
- Calving seasons can be shifted to earlier or later times of the year when bears are less active. Calving and lambing grounds should be in open areas with good visibility and away from bear travel corridors.
- Range riders and livestock guard dogs/donkeys can greatly decrease the odds of livestock loss.
- Shelterbelts/windrows should be maintained annually to prevent them from becoming overgrown as bears seek out thick patches of brush for bedding.
- Don’t let bears linger in your yard because this can lead to habituation.
- Notify your neighbors if you do observe a bear in the area to help make others aware.