Just The Bear Facts
As we approach another spring season, most of us look forward to the new life it brings to our backyards. For some, however, it may bring some unexpected and unwelcome visitors. The black bear. Much has been spoken and written about these wonderful creatures. Statistics, myths, facts and feelings all enter the conversation. We believe that it is now time for the truth about bears and backyard bird feeding to come out. We believe an educated consumer should make his or her own decisions about their property rights.
Since 1996, Wild Bird Depot has had just one goal, to educate the public about the joys of backyard bird feeding, one backyard at a time. We have made every effort through newsletters, slide presentations, and talk shows to let people know the facts about wild birds. We were on the Board of Directors for the National Wildbird Feeding Society; a non-profit organization dedicated to the education of backyard bird feeding. We have been involved as a Board member with Birding Business Magazine, an industry-leading publication. We have contributed over $5,000 to the Holderness Science Center for rehabilitation purposes. We have contributed hundreds of pounds of wild birdseed to Audubon’s Prescott Farms in Gilford. In each instance, we are sure that our contributions are used wisely and locally. We are much, much more than just a retail store concerned only about profits.
For the last couple of years, New Hampshire residents are encountering bears in areas that have never seen a bear before. Newspapers carry front-page pictures of roaming bears, visiting backyards during the daytime. Not even city neighborhoods are exempt. What’s causing this and how can we stop it? “Humans are destroying bear habitat.” “Too many trees are being cut, too much land is being developed.” These are the most common, instinctive response for the bear encounters. Humans are blamed for all the environmental problems we face today. We never get credit for the good we have done, and this is an excellent example.
Learn about the history of New Hampshire. Take a walk around the woods in your neighborhood. Ask any child what they see in the woods. You can’t walk more than a half mile before you see some form of rock walls. They come in all shapes and sizes, some go for miles. These are remnants of our past ancestors. Our ancestors didn’t build these walls in existing forests. They built them on their farms. New Hampshire was filled with tree-less farms. Since that time, we have done an excellent job of reforestation.
It is reforestation, not deforestation that has caused an explosion in wildlife populations. The last few decades, humans have planted more trees than ever before. New Hampshire is 81% forestland. That only leaves 19% for humans. The wonderful consequences of these noble actions are an increase in the animal populations, including bears! According to actual numbers from US Fish and Wildlife sources, in just the last few decades, the latest estimates of bear numbers has increased from 500 to over 5,000! Compliments of humans! The hunting seasons hardly put a dent in the yearly increases of bears. Because of these huge increases, it only stands to reason that the bears would start to venture outside their normal forest ranges.
Bears are scavengers. They will eat absolutely anything that is available or has a food scent. Town dumps, campsites, gas grills, dog dishes, compost piles, gardens and bird feeders are just a few of their targets. Farm animals are being slaughtered, horses slashed and beehives destroyed, regardless of the recommended, expensive electric fences people have installed around their properties. Bird feeders get the most press because it is the most popular hobby the Americans have taken to in the last decade. Outlaw every bird feeder in the state and we will still have marauding bears even more aggressive with their human food sources.
We have always recommended to any customer who has had an actual encounter with marauding bears to take their feeders in at night and put them back out in the morning. For the overwhelming majority of people, this will end your problems. Most people have never had bear problems, they just have heard about them. What are causing the most headlines are the extreme few bears that have lost all fear of humans. These are bears that must be dealt with aggressively by the F&G agencies. It is unnatural for any animal to lose its natural fear of humans. Ignore these problem bears now and they will eventually become a bigger threat later.
Law-abiding property taxpayers should not have to deal with these problem bears. We only use 19% of the available land in NH. It is not right that less than a dozen marauding bears should dictate what law-abiding property taxpayers can do in their own backyards. Stop bird feeding, no more outdoor cooking, stop gardening., etc, etc are totally inadequate responses from a government agency that exists to implement wildlife management.
Imagine if a bunch of youngster who created fear through threats or intimidation frequented your neighborhood. After calling your local law-enforcement, their response is “Just stay in the house and hope they leave.” What would be your response? Law enforcement is about enforcing the law. They are taxpayer-funded agencies hired to perform a job. The same principal exists when you call F&G agencies to report marauding bears. “Just stop using your backyard and hope they go away.” Why do law-abiding citizens accept this response? Tell them to do their jobs. If you still receive an unacceptable answer, call your local political representative and ask them to look into it. That’s also their jobs. Don’t accept that your backyard is at fault.
State wildlife authorities have to revamp bear management strategies. Hunting policies are geared too much toward keeping enough bears around for sports hunters rather than seriously reducing the state’s huge bear population. In other words, more bears means more hunting licenses which increases the F&G coffers. If this huge bear population causes problems amongst the general public, the authorities expect everyone else to change their lifestyles. It is unconscionable that a government agency would expect citizens to drastically alter their backyard lifestyles in order to placate special interests. It is even more unconscionable for these same citizens to constantly lament… “Well, what can I do?” and then not even make a couple of simple phone calls to register their complaints. Government authorities never do anything unless they hear from the public.
It is possible for the agency to enact policies to support bear populations, hunting seasons and backyard lifestyles. 63 million Americans feed birds. It’s time their voices are heard, loud and clear. It’s called a compromise.