If you feed birds and live in northern Middlesex County, Worcester County, or western Massachusetts, it's time to think about removing bird feeders before bears emerge from hibernation.
Snow melt and longer day length will begin to encourage bears to leave their winter dens and seek food. In many cases, bears will ignore natural foods such as skunk cabbage and instead head to the nearest birdfeeder for a good meal. To avoid this problem in central and western Massachusetts, the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (DFW) is issuing its seasonal reminder that bird feeders should be taken down by mid-March and other preventive steps be taken.
"There is little in the way of natural foods and bears learn to seek out high-energy human foods such as bird seed," says Laura Hajduk, DFW Bear Project Leader. "This may lead to conflicts that pose hazards to both bears and people." Removing bird feeders will not create a problem for birds as birdfeeders are more of a supplement to the natural foods available throughout the winter.
Massachusetts is home to approximately 3,000 resident bears, with the majority living west of the Connecticut River. Bears also reside as far east as Worcester County and northern Middlesex County. Although many bears keep to their dens during the winter, some can be sporadically active and can seek out human related food sources. If you notice bear activity in the area earlier than mid-March, be proactive and remove bird feeders and other potential food sources promptly.