Black bears are the only bear species in PA. As omnivores, they’ll eat almost anything including berries, corn, carrion, honey, insects, table scraps – and seeds. They love bird seed. Black bears start hibernating in October and usually become active by mid-March. Really active! Black bears wake up super hungry, which means bird feeders are some of their first targets for food! During spring and summer, black bears may also target your feeders from dusk to dawn as part of their nightly foraging. In late summer and fall black bears will fatten up to get ready for winter hibernation. That means they may aggressively target your feeders once again during this time.
Know the Battlefield
Not much in your backyard isn’t within reach of a black bear. Black bears can weigh from 200-600 pounds (and, in a few rare cases, as much as 900 pounds!) When standing upright, they measure from 5 to 7 feet tall. Both genders are smart, athletic and exceedingly good climbers (as many of you already know!) So, when it comes to saving your seed and feeders, black bears are in a whole different league than squirrels and raccoons. However, there is hope...
Mounting feeders on a 10-foot metal pole usually does the trick. BUT THIS IS IMPORTANT: Make sure the pole is at least 3-inches in diameter and mounted between 2-3 feet into the ground using concrete. It’s a lot of work, but black bears won’t be able to climb up it or knock it down. People who go this route usually rig a pulley system to get the feeder down for refilling. If you choose to do this, make sure the line from your pulley is tightly secured at the base. Because you can be sure black bears will bat the line around attempting to get at your seed.
Motion-activated sprinklers are a good way to dissuade black bears. Hook a hose up to the sprinkler at night and place it near your feeders. Make sure the sprinkler faces where the black bears are entering your yard. When triggered, the black bear will get both sprayed and startled, keeping them out of your yard.
SHOWER TIME II
Night is the best time of day to water your lawn. Water doesn’t evaporate in the evening like it does during the heat of the day. So why not just turn your sprinklers on at night and let them run while you’re sleeping? Often times, the constant shower is enough to make black bears think twice about munching on your bird seed. And hey, you don’t need to water the lawn in the morning!
Motion-activated lights are also a good idea. Whether hardwired to the outside of your house or battery operated in a tree, these lights will turn on when triggered by a black bear (or any other critter), blasting them with a strong beam of light. No guarantees, but many times this is enough to send black bears packing.
BWS carries a bear-proof armored tube feeder that black bears can claw and bite all night long. The only thing they’ll get out of it is a trip to the dentist (or nail salon.) Guaranteed!
Whether you use the BWS bear-proof feeder or not, it’s wise to chain your feeders to the base they’re mounted on. This won’t keep brown bears from eating your bird seed. But it will keep them from running off with your feeder or pulling it down and trashing it on the ground.
TAKE IT INSIDE
Of course, the best way to avoid brown bear trouble at your feeders is to bring them in at night from March until October when bears are active. You can store them in a shed or garage, then just hang them again in the morning.
KEEP THE KITCHEN INDOORS
A locking galvanized trash can is enough to keep squirrels and raccoons out of your surplus seed stored outside. It won’t do a darn thing to keep brown bears at bay. If you have bear trouble, store your seed inside. Again, a shed or garage is a perfect protected bird seed pantry.