Hide The Food, Avoid Bear Problems

A black bear looks out at a crowd of onlookers watching it from along the Duluth Lakewalk in 2013. (Andrew Krueger photo)
A black bear looks out at a crowd of onlookers watching it from along the Duluth Lakewalk in 2013. (Andrew Krueger photo)

It’s been a long winter, and some of Minnesota’s black bears are stirring after a winter in their dens. And they’re hungry.

Wildlife officials with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources say they’re already getting calls from homeowners who are having problems with bears.

“We try to get this message out to people every year, and clearly not everyone is getting it,” said Chris Balzer, DNR area wildlife manager at Cloquet. “We get lots of calls. Usually, it’s birdfeeders and garbage. If you make that stuff unavailable to bears, you’re less likely to have problems.”

As bears emerge from hibernation, their metabolism gradually ramps up and they will begin looking for food at a time when berries and green vegetation can be scarce, wildlife officials say. Bears may be tempted by dog food, livestock feed, birdseed, compost or garbage.

The DNR does not relocate problem bears. Relocated bears seldom remain where they are released. They may return to where they were caught or become a problem somewhere else.

The DNR offers some tips for avoiding bear conflicts:

  • Eliminate birdfeeders or hang them 10 feet up and 4 feet out from the nearest trees.
  • Use a rope and pulley system to refill birdfeeders, and clean up seeds that spill onto the ground. Where bears are a nuisance, birdfeeders should be taken down between now and Dec. 1.
  • Store pet food inside and feed pets inside. If pets must be fed outdoors, feed them only as much as they will eat.
  • Clean and store barbeque grills after each use. Store them in a secure shed or garage away from windows and doors.
  • Limit compost piles to grass, leaves and garden clippings, and turn piles regularly. Do not add food scraps.
  • Store garbage in bear-resistant garbage cans or dumpsters. Rubber or plastic garbage cans are not bear-proof.
  • Keep garbage inside a secure building until the morning of pickup.