Energy & Environment

Vermonters urged to remove bird feeders as bears emerge from hibernation earlier than usual

Photo courtesy of John Hall

As black bears wake up from their seasonal slumber earlier than usual, Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department officials say it’s time to put bird feeders back into hibernation.

“The department recommends taking down bird feeders and keeping them stored until December, to avoid attracting bears,” officials said in a Monday press release.

In previous years, the department recommended Vermonters take down bird feeders by April 1.

But the warmer weather predicted throughout March “will stimulate more bears to emerge from their dens,” officials said in the release.

The department started receiving reports of bears on its “Living with Black Bears” webpage on March 7.

Drawn to foods by smell, the bears may also be interested in garbage, open dumpsters, backyard chickens, pet food, barbecue grills, campsites with accessible food and food waste, officials said. The press release included several tips on how to prevent bears from accessing food waste, including storing garbage in bear-proof containers or structures — “trash cans alone are not enough” — and requesting a bear-proof dumpster from a waste hauler. 

The release also recommends feeding pets inside as well as using an “electric fence to keep chickens and honeybees safe.”

“Preventing bears from having access to human-related foods, such as bird seed, is key to successful coexistence,” said Jaclyn Comeau, the department’s bear biologist.

Another aspect of successful coexistence with bears is not feeding them. 

“Purposely feeding a bear is not just bad for the bear, it is also dangerous for you, it causes problems for your neighbors, and it is illegal,” Comeau said.

Putting away a backyard bird feeder does not mean that Vermonters have to give up connecting with birds, officials said. They suggested planting native seeds as an alternative.

Photo courtesy of Kris & Norm Senna

“Native plants provide essential food resources for birds year-round and also host protein-rich native butterfly and moth caterpillars, the number one food for songbird nestlings. And best of all, they do not attract bears,” Gwendolyn Causer, Audubon Vermont’s communication coordinator and environmental educator, said in the release.

Vermont Audubon is partnering with the department throughout this spring to promote bird feeder alternatives.

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Talia Heisey

About Talia

Talia Heisey is a student at the University of Massachusetts Amherst studying journalism and English. There they are the managing editor of the Amherst Wire as well as a past staff writer for the the Massachusetts Daily Collegian. A Massachusetts native, they have interned for the Framingham Source, DigBoston and the Civil Rights and Restorative Justice Project.

Email: [email protected]

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