With mother bears leaving their yearling cubs in preparation for the breeding season, encounters with young bears attracted to backyard food sources are increasing across northern Michigan, according to the Department of Natural Resources (DNR).
As the young bears leave their mothers, they must look for food on their own for the first time. These young, inexperienced bears are often attracted to bird feeders, trash cans, pet food, grills and other items that smell like food as they learn to fend for themselves. To reduce the potential for attracting bears and habituating them to humans, DNR wildlife biologists recommend that any potential attractants be removed until the bear has moved on.
“These young bears were recently driven away from their mothers and are looking for handouts. Yearling bears just don’t know any better than to come into a backyard with a bird feeder,” said DNR wildlife biologist Terry McFadden. “Anyone with a young bear in the backyard should demonstrate that their yard is a hostile environment by banging pots and pans together and even throwing rocks in the bear’s direction. It won’t take long to scare the bear off.”
It is very rare for a bear to hang around without the lure of food sources, McFadden added, so be sure that all food sources, not just bird feeders, are subsequently removed from the area. With the cold start to summer, a late berry crop may also encourage bears of all ages to seek out food sources much closer to human populations than they would under normal conditions.
“Trapping of bears will only be authorized by the DNR when there is significant damage to property, or a threat to human safety,” McFadden said. “A bear coming into a bird feeder, or even destroying a bird feeder, does not meet those requirements. We do not have the manpower to respond to every bear complaint, and we need everyone to do their part to reduce these interactions before the bears become truly habituated and are then considered a nuisance.”
Anyone experiencing problems with backyard bears, and has taken the appropriate action to remove food sources for a period of one to two weeks but has not seen results, should contact the nearest DNR office and speak with a wildlife biologist or technician for further assistance.
For more information, go to the DNR website at www.michigan.gov/dnr and click on “Wildlife & Habitat.”