Over the past few weeks, Mainers have once again learned that they have burly neighbors wandering through their backyards at night, desperately seeking snacks.
Nothing new there. Each spring, as black bears begin to forage, they check out their surroundings and look for snacks.
Easy-to-find snacks. Handy snacks.
Snacks that many of us unwittingly make available to the wandering bruins.
Leave a bird feeder out, and the bears may decide to use it as their own personal salad bar. Raise bees? Your hives are delicious. Like to cook steaks and burgers on the grill? Any grease you leave behind may lure some unwanted visitors.
In the past week, game wardens have answered calls all over the state, including one involving a birdseed-eating bear at Princeton Elementary School. On Sunday, Warden Jim Fahey told a BDN reporter that he’d answered three bear-related calls in the same day — the first time he’d ever done that.
So, what’s a homeowner to do?
As game wardens and biologists always tell you, there’s a simple answer: Remove the attractants, and the bears won’t stop by. Bird feeders, garbage cans, grills, and pet food can all look like tasty morsels to bears.
But there may be another choice.
A disclaimer: I intentionally used the word “MAY.” I haven’t used this alternative, and can’t vouch for its effectiveness.
But a reader has, and does.
On Tuesday, I received a call from Nancy Hatfield of East Blue Hill. Like many of the rest of us, Hatfield had been reading about all of the bear-related incidents.
Turns out Hatfield used to have bear problems of her own. Then, about three years ago, she bought an inexpensive product that she claims has made all the difference in the world.
It’s called Nite Guard, and Hatfield says that after installing her own unit, she hasn’t had a bear visit her property once. Her bird feeders are still out, and the bears leave them alone.
Nite Guard is marketed as a protective measure against predators. It’s a solar-powered unit that consists of a red flashing light. According to the manufacturer, “Nite Guard Solar attacks the deepest, most primal fear of night animals — that of being discovered. The simple but effective fact is that a flash of light is sensed as an eye and becomes a threat immediately to the most ferocious night animals.”
Hatfield says that her Nite Guard hasn’t just eliminated her bear interactions. Many other critters have become more scarce since.
“It works on skunks and raccoons, too,” she said.
Hatfield said that the unit also stopped deer from feeding on her foliage, but only temporarily.
As I said before, I’ve got no idea if Nite Guard will work or not.
Randy Cross, a wildlife biologist with the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, went farther than that. Cross said he’d err on the side of caution with similar devices.
“My fear would be that this would offer temporary or otherwise incomplete protection and lead people to develop a false sense of security,” Cross wrote in an email. “[It] might be useful and helpful but should not supplant responsible bear problem avoidance behavior by homeowners such as removal and securing attractants at home.”
Still, since there are thousands of Mainers who swear those bumper-mounted moose whistles are the only reason they haven’t crashed into Bullwinkle in the past, I figure there are also more than a few folks who will give this bear-scarer a try.
You can learn more about Nite Guard unit through the company’s website. A unit costs about 20 bucks, and the product is also available through Amazon.com.
If you decide to purchase one, let me know how it works out.
And one further disclaimer: If it turns out that your local bear thinks your flashing beacon is a sign for the local diner, I’m not responsible for damaged bird feeders, grills, or stolen pet food.
For those who already own a Nite Guard or purchase one in the future, keep me posted on your results.
Your fellow readers will appreciate it.