Don’t feed the bears, officials warn

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RUMFORD — It’s that time of year again.

The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife is asking people to bring their bird feeders inside and not to leave food waste outside.

Black bears have emerged from winter dens and are looking for easy food.

“In recent weeks, two bears were shot and killed in Maine by either a member of the public or a local police department because the animals posed a threat to public safety,” Deborah Turcotte, MDIF&W spokeswoman, said in a report Friday in Augusta.

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One bear, she said, was a mama bear with three cubs nearby. Turcotte didn’t state where the bruins were killed.

“The bears either were attracted to a backyard bird feeder or to garbage and food waste left outside in the neighborhood,” she said.

“There are simple solutions people can take to substantially reduce the dangers posed by bears near their homes and situations where a bear may have to be killed.”

People are encouraged to follow the steps below to protect themselves and wildlife and, in so doing, appreciate wildlife and their behaviors from afar:

* Bring in your bird feeders and rake up the seed that has fallen underneath the bird feeder. You can resume feeding birds later in the summer after berries have ripened providing a natural food source for bears.

* If you continue to feed birds during the spring and summer months, we encourage you to bring your bird feeder in at night but be aware bears may still raid your bird feeder during the day.

* Rake up all of the seed underneath the bird feeder each night, otherwise bears will eat the seed that remains.

* Store your seed in a secure location (garage, barn, outbuilding, basement).

* If a bear visits your feeder, bring your feeder in and do not replace the feeder for several weeks after the bear was last seen in your area.

* Store garbage and garbage cans in the garage or basement until trash day.

* Bring your garbage to the curb on the mornings of pickup.

* Use dumpsters with heavy metal lids that latch shut. Keep the lids and self-closing doors shut. If garbage is overflowing, contact the trash hauler to pick it up.

* Do not compost foods in your backyard that have a strong food odor (fish, meat).

* For grills, burn off as much of the meat and grease as possible and then brush or scrape grills clean. Grills should be stored in a closed garage or shed.

* Bring pet food dishes inside at night.

* Store all livestock feeds and other seeds in a secure location.

* Encourage your neighbors to take the same steps that you are to deter bears, otherwise the conflicts with bears will continue.

* When camping, put food and other items with an odor, including candy, toothpaste, suntan lotion and soap, in sealed containers. If camping near your vehicle, keep the sealed containers in it.

* Never store food or candy in your tent or sleeping quarters. If food or other odorous items cannot be stored, locate a tree that is 50 feet or more from the campsite, and place the food in a “bear bag” that is at least 12 feet above the ground and 10 feet from the nearest tree trunk.

Alternatively, food can be placed in a bear-proof plastic barrel (commercially available) and placed away from the campsite.

* After meals, store all leftovers and immediately wash dishes. Dump the dishwater away from the camp or use a sump hole to filter the water, and then burn the food scraps. Carefully burn all leftover food, wrappers and grease. Don’t bury them or throw them in a latrine.

* If a bear shows up in your backyard, stay calm. Shout at it like you would to chase away an unwanted dog.

Most bears are timid enough to be scared away by yelling, waving or banging pots. Check first before going outside. Black bears blend into night skies, thus providing the chance of an encounter. Use outside lights to full advantage and look outside from a safe position, such as a porch or window.

* Never approach a bear.

tkarkos@sunjournal.com

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