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​Bears emerging from hibernation a cause for preparation, not alarm

by Scott Hanson


More bear sightings are being reported in northern Minnesota by Department of Natural Resources wildlife managers as the animals emerge from hibernation and search for food.

Now is a good time for residents who live close to bear habitat to inspect their property for food sources that could attract hungry bears. With berries and vegetation scarce at this time of year, bears may be tempted by dog food, livestock feed, birdseed, compost or garbage.

"When human-related food is easy to find, bears stop seeking their natural foods," said John Williams, DNR northwest regional wildlife manager. "These bears eventually get into trouble because they return again and again."

Unfortunately, food-conditioned bears often end up dead bears. Bears that are trapped because they have become a nuisance are destroyed rather than relocated. Relocated bears seldom remain where they are released. They may return to where they were caught or become a problem somewhere else.

Experience has shown that removing food that attracts bears resolves problems more effectively than attempting to trap and destroy bears. Bears will not be trapped for causing minor property damage, such as tearing down bird feeders or tipping over garbage cans.

"If a bear enters your yard, don't panic and don't approach the bear," Williams said. "Always leave the bear an escape route. Everyone should leave the area and go inside until the bear leaves on its own."

Bears are normally shy and usually flee when encountered. But they may defend an area if they are feeding or are with their young.

Never approach or try to pet a bear, Williams said. They are unpredictable wild animals. Injury to people is rare, but bears are potentially dangerous because of their size, strength and speed." A treed bear should be left alone as well. It should leave once the area is quiet.

Some tips for avoiding bear conflicts:

AROUND THE YARD

  • Do not leave food from barbeques and picnics outdoors, especially overnight. Coolers are not bear-proof.
  • Replace hummingbird feeders with hanging flower baskets, which are also attractive to hummingbirds.
  • Eliminate bird feeders or hang them 10 feet up and 4 feet out from the nearest trees.
  • Where bears are a nuisance, birdfeeders should be taken down between April 1 and Dec. 1.
  • Store pet food inside and feed pets inside. If pets must be fed outdoors, feed them only as much as they will eat.
  • Clean and store barbeque grills after each use. Store them in a secure shed or garage away from windows and doors.
  • Pick fruit from trees as soon as its ripe and collect fallen fruit immediately.
  • Limit compost piles to grass, leaves and garden clippings, and turn piles regularly.
  • Harvest garden produce as it matures; locate gardens away from woods and shrubs that bears may use for cover.
  • Use native plants in landscaping whenever possible. Clover and dandelions will attract bears.
  • Elevate bee hives on bear-proof platforms or erect properly designed electric fences.
  • Do not put out feed for wildlife (corn, oats, pellets, molasses blocks).


GARBAGE

  • Store garbage in bear-resistant garbage cans or dumpsters. Rubber or plastic garbage cans are not bear-proof.
  • Keep garbage inside a secure building until the morning of pickup.
  • Store recyclable containers, such as pop cans, inside. The sweet smells attract bears.
  • Store especially smelly garbage such as meat or fish scraps in a freezer until it can be taken to a refuse site.
  • If bear problems persist after cleaning up the food sources, contact a DNR area wildlife office.

For name of the local wildlife manager, contact the DNR Information Center, 651-296-6157, 888-646-6367.
Learn more about living with bears at www.dnr.state.mn.us/ livingwith_wildlife/bears/ index.html .