The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife is warning homeowners who leave food in their yards that they could be attracting a very unwanted visitor.
The department said it has already investigated 27 nuisance black bear complaints this spring, with most of them originating in the Kennebunk and Arundel area.
Black bears have begun to emerge from their winter dens. With natural foods in short supply, they are generating police nuisance complaints as they scavenge for easy meals around bird feeders, trash cans, chicken coops, pet foods, and grills.
“Due to the late spring, we anticipate that bear complaints could reach higher than normal levels this year. Spring is the time of year when natural foods for bears are scarcest, and as a result bears will often seek accessible food in people’s back yards,” said Jen Vashon, DIF&W’s bear biologist.
Kennebunk police posted a message on the department’s Facebook page urging homeowners to be mindful of what they leave in their yards.
“There has been a lot of talk recently about bear sightings in town. We can confirm some of these bear sightings, but they are not unusual for this time of year as bears come out of hibernation,” Kennebunk police said.
According to a DIF&W article posted on the police department’s Facebook page, Maine is home to the largest population of black bears in the lower 48 states. Black bears are most active between April 1 and Nov. 1. They are not known for attacking humans, so the sighting or presence of a bear in a community does not constitute a threat to property or public and no attempt will be made to remove, relocate or destroy the animal.
Vashon said that bears are hungry at this time of year because they may have lost between 15 percent and 40 percent of their body weight during the winter months. Much of a bear’s diet consists of vegetation. Natural foods such as leaves and grass are not available in April.
But bears can be “opportunistic carnivores” and will feed on moose calves, deer fawns, and small livestock. In recent years, bear complaints associated with small livestock, such as chickens, have increased as backyard farming becomes more popular. The state urges people to protect livestock with fences and to keep animals in a secure building at night.
“Maine has a growing bear population and bears are becoming more common in central and southern Maine, increasing the potential for conflicts,” Vashon said. “We want to remind people to remove attractants so they don’t create a potentially dangerous interaction with a bear.”