Officials urge residents to guard against bears

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CONCORD, N.H. (AP) – Black bears are coming out of hibernation and they may be hungrier than usual this year, state officials say.

They are urging people to take precautions to avoid attracting the animals.

“This spring will likely be more difficult on bears compared to recent years,” said Andrew Timmins, a wildlife biologist with the state Fish and Game Department.

A lean year for nuts and fruits last fall is part of the problem.

“The lack of fall foods likely caused bears to accumulate less fat compared to a food-rich year, and fat reserves may be depleted by spring. Also, the leftover mast on the forest floor (beechnuts and acorns) that bears rely on as early spring foods… will not be available.”

Fear about bears was recently heightened by news of a 6-year-old girl who was killed and her mother and 2-year old brother mauled by a black bear in Tennessee.

Timmins said the last time a person died from a bear attack in New Hampshire was more than 200 years ago.

“People don’t need to fear bears, but they should keep their distance and treat bears as unpredictable wild animals,” he said.

When there’s less natural food, bears are attracted to bird feeders and trash, Timmins said.

Unfortunately, bears can learn to rely on human sources of food, and female bears will often teach this habit to their cubs, he said.

The department is recommending people put away their bird feeders, keep their garbage in sealed containers in a garage and bring pet food dishes indoors at night.

“By minimizing bear/human conflicts, we can coexist with these magnificent animals even as New Hampshire becomes more developed. There is some truth to the adage that a fed bear is a dead bear.’ Once habituated to human food sources in your backyard, some destructive “nuisance” bears may need to be destroyed.” state Fish and Game Wildlife Damage Specialist Rob Calvert said.

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