Spring has finally sprung and that means bears are on the move! Adult bears (and cubs) are emerging from their dens for what is possibly their first big meal in months. An easy target, and often one of their first, is the backyard bird feeder. Bears have become a little too comfortable dining on feeders filled with suet, black oil sunflower seeds, and dried nuts and berries throughout the spring, summer and fall. In response, several organizations have agreed upon a bird feeding timeline which keeps bears safe and feeds birds during the time of year they really need it. The official dates are: December 1 - April 1.
You can safely put feeders up December 1st but remember to take them down April 1st. Note: These dates may shift with climate change.
If your feeders have been hit by bears during the night (and occasionally during the day - see photo below), then you know the damage is usually irreparable. Replacing feeders and poles after repeated attacks is costly, but that's only half of the problem. The other more critical half is that bears become accustomed to humans and no longer fear us, which creates nuisance bears resulting in bear/human conflicts. Although black bears rarely attack humans, they are wild animals and should be treated with caution, especially a sow with cubs. If bears become a nuisance, they are typically dealt with by wildlife officials which means they are either relocated to areas where they will be safe from human interaction, or more commonly euthanized.
We all love our birds and bears, so if you abide by those dates (December 1- April 1) and feed the birds only when a) they really need to be fed and b) during times bears are less likely to hit feeders, everyone wins!