How do I stop Black Bears?
In Ontario there are an estimated 85,000 - 100,00 Black Bears (Ursus americanus) in Ontario- the second largest population in North America. Bears are a healthy part of Ontario’s biodiversity and ecosystems; however they are opportunistic omnivores that will eat just about anything people will eat. Bears are naturally shy of humans and most often live separate lives even when their habitat is close to human civilization. In other words, it is possible to live closely along side Black Bears and never see them in your yard. You will likely know if you live in “bear country”, however in recent years bears have been making their way into urban areas around Simcoe County and the GTA including recent sightings in Toronto, Aurora and Innisfil.
Many people who live in “bear country” will often find out about a “nuisance bear” (a bear someone considers unwelcome) from neighbours or local neighbourhood watch groups. Bears know an easy meal when they smell it and will venture into peoples yard in search of food, including unsecured garbage, greasy barbeque grills, outdoor pet food bowls and bird feeders as an easy target. At bird feeding stations, rather than wasting time trying to open a feeder, bears will often bend bird feeder pole systems down to the ground and chew right through the feeder itself to access food. This is most likely to happen at night but can also occur during the day.
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Black Bear (Ursus americanus)- Photo by Paul Hartley, see more of his work at paulhartley.ca
To Save Your Feeders and Be Bear Aware there is Only 1 Option:
- Remove All Bird Feeders When Bears are Active (April-October): All laws pertaining to bears must be respected. It is illegal to feed bears in some areas. If a bear becomes accustom to human offerings wildlife officials may need to kill it; so, it does no favours to a bear to feed them either intentionally or unintentionally. Unfortunately the saying “A fed bear is a dead bear” is true.
Other Possible Choices:
While there is only one true option to preventing bears at your bird feeders here are a couple of other choices permitted all laws pertaining to bears have been respected.
- Bring Your Feeders in Every Night and Leave No Bird or Pet Food on the Ground When Bears are Active: This option works well in many yards because bears are nocturnal. It is also wise to ensure that garbage is tidy and secured from bears and BBQ grills have been properly cleaned. However, if you notice a visit from a bear during the day, you will probably have to remove all of your bird feeders.
- Electric Fencing: Beekeepers who farm where bears are active often protect hives with electric fencing, as a hungry bear could destroy many hives in one feeding. Electric fencing would also work for bird feeding stations. A quick online search for “electric fencing for bee hives” will often provide a variety of resources and places where fencing can be purchased and installed. It is important to follow all instructions for the safe and proper use of electric fencing.
- Specialty Pole Systems Designed to Keep Bears Out: These systems are specially designed for keeping bird feeders out of the reach of hungry bears. A winch, pully system and extremely strong poles maneuver the feeders high enough so it is out of the bears reach. Such systems would need to keep the bottom of bird feeders at least 10 feet from the ground (higher is better). Specialty pole systems can cost several hundreds of dollars and use 600 lbs of concrete to stabilize the pole. If you are interested in purchasing a specialty system WBU Barrie can special order a custom system with 3-4 months notice. Please note the system must be paid for in advance and is non-refundable due to the specialized nature of the product. Please contact [email protected] for a custom quote.
NOTE: WBU Barrie does not endorse bird feeding during active bear season in areas where bears live in close and constant contact with humans. This page is meant to be informative only. Local wildlife authorities should be consulted if you are considering feeding the birds during active bear season in areas with active bear populations.