Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Living in Bear Country

     A post in Facebook this morning alerted me to a need to write about living in bear country.  I take for granted many times knowledge gained from years of living in rural areas, but many people do not have the knowledge so I am going to attempt to do a bit of teaching in today's post about bears, and what to do if you see one on your back lawn.  
     Lots of people dream for many years about moving to the country and setting up housekeeping on their own little paradise.  Maine provides lots of opportunity to do that, but keep in mind when you live in the country you will be sharing your domain with all of God's creatures including the black bear.  Maine is home to the  most dense population of black bears in the lower 48 states.   As more and more people carve out their homes in Maine's forest lands, and as the bear population continues to expand, bear encounters will happen.
     So what to do to minimize the frequency of seeing a bear on your property.  Well the first thing to do is eliminate all attractants to bears.  A black bear is a walking stomach.  They are omnivores which means they eat about anything.  That bird feeder that you filled all winter long to feed song birds, really needs to be put away all spring, summer and fall.  Bears you see will eat bird seed if they are hungry and they find a source.  Bears will also be attracted to your grill.  Why your grill, well it probably smells like steak, burgers or barbecued chicken.  DID YOU KNOW THAT A BEAR CAN SMELL A FOOD SOURCE TWO MILES AWAY.   You do now.  When you are done grilling, put your grill away.  If you leave it on your deck for your convenience, well do not be surprised if you have a bear on your deck. 
     Speaking of decks, when you live in the woods you need to consider access to your deck when it is designed.  My home has an attached deck that surrounds the back half of my lodge.  The deck does not have stairs that lead to the backyard.  The only access to the deck is through my home.  The chances of a bear getting on my deck are greatly reduced, because I have made it difficult for a bear to get onto it.  My grill stays on my deck year round, BUT the deck is 15 feet above ground level with no stairs.
     This time of year is a busy time for bears.  They are getting out of hibernation, it is also mating season.  Female bears breed every two years.  Mother bears that bore cubs last spring, spent all last summer and fall with her cubs.  They went into hibernation late last fall together, suddenly this spring mom's attitude changed and she drove her offspring away to make their way in the world on their own.  Ninety percent of the time that 300 pound bear you saw on your deck was really a seventy pound yearling bear that has a lot to learn yet, but also found the scent of grilled meat to good to pass up. Now mom is ready to hook up with a male bear and begin the process all over again.  She will breed, spend the summer and fall eating, then go into hibernation.  While in hibernation she gives birth.  The following spring her and the cubs come out and spent that spring, summer and fall living together.  They go into hibernation with her and the following spring she drives those cubs off, and some of them will end up hanging from a tree in your back yard eating sunflower seeds, or grabbing a bag of garbage of your deck and running into the treeline to tear it open and find a tasty tidbit.
    When bears awake from hibernation there isn't much available for them to eat.  They begin the process of waking up their digestive systems by eating green grass and buds from some trees.  Once their systems start working again they can handle more substantial food.  Where is the greenest grass in the area.  Well it is probably your well manicured lawn.  If you see a bear eating on the edge of your field, it will just wander off after a time, unless you keep attracting it back, by leaving other more substantial food sources where it can easily gain access to them.
      The first thing many people think they need to do is call the warden service when they see a bear.  The first thing the warden service is going to do is tell you to remove all attractants from your property.  Trapping and relocating a bear is not the wardens first response.  A bear needs to be relocated 150 air miles away in order for a relocation to have a chance to possibly work.  Even then, many times a bear will make its way back.  Go to a map and draw a circle 150 miles from your place and you will see there are very few places to move a bear, where it will not impact someone else.
     I could go on and on with this topic, but we are limited.  So when living in God's country you need to learn to live with the animals.  When it comes to bears just remember they can smell food two miles away.  Put away all bird feeders early in the spring, and do not bring them back until late in the fall.  Keep your grill and other foods inaccessible to bears, and when you see a bear it will just be passing through looking for easier places to eat.  When you live in the Maine's forest land there are always bears passing through.  So if you do not want one on your deck, quit sending out invitations by leaving bear attractants laying around.

1 comment:

  1. Just wanted to say THANK YOU for your bear cookbook! We have a good sized bear in our freezer, and having cooked every other critter under the sun, I was stymied! Looking forward to trying these recipes. Will print it out and add it to my 'must have' cookbooks!
    Thanks again,
    Blogging about real food at