Pests at your bird feeder are probably something you’re used to. Squirrels, snakes and cats are regular visitors in most areas and have to be contended with. However, a stray bear in your yard is a whole other thing!
Why bears visit backyards
If you’ve ever been camping in the woods, you’ve probably learned a bit about keeping your campsite safe from bears. Black Bears and Grizzly Bears are both attracted to bird feeders for the same reason they are attracted to campsites: food.
From late winter until early summer bears are looking for food, usually with cubs following behind, and food in many areas is scarce during that time. Bears are omnivores, which means they will eat almost anything but their diet consists largely of seeds, fruits and grains. That means that your backyard bird feeder is a perfect target for them. Once bears discover a feeder with a regular place to eat, they’ll return again and again–never hesitating to destroy the feeder and terrorize the animals and people around in the process.
Luckily, discouraging bears from coming into your yard is easy with a little planning.
Keep bears away from your yard
Follow one or all of these steps to keep bears at bay.
- Take down your feeders. The only way to completely ensure no birds come to your feeders is to completely remove them. This can be a good idea in early spring. From April until early fall, most birds will be able to find adequate food without supplemental feeders. Leaving the feeders in place for late fall through winter and removing them during spring and summer is the surest way to keep bears away.
- Make sure feeders are mounted properly. Bears can climb or break poles if they are mounted too low or on an non-sturdy pole. Make sure your pole-mounted feeders are at least 12 feet high and use bitter seeds like safflower or Nyjer.
- Store bird seed inside. A large storage hopper full of seed outdoors is an easy target for hungry bears. Keep your seed in the house or garage so bears cannot access it.
- Run sprinklers in the evening. If your neighborhood allows, run your sprinkler system at night while birds are sleeping and bears are prowling.
- Spotlight feeders. Set motion sensor lights directly towards your feeders, then if a bear does come into your yard it will likely be scared at the lights coming on.
- Use bird-friendly plants instead of fruit feeders. Although berry-producing plants will be popular with bears as well as birds, other bird-friendly plants, like certain types of flowers, will not attract bears. Use these instead of popular fruit feeders to attract certain bird species.
None of these strategies is a cure-all. Try implementing a few together and remember, if bears are a persistent problem in your area, make sure your fences are in good repair and keep your bird feeders indoors during the spring months.