A couple weeks back, the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife issued its stock seasonal warning to the state’s rural homeowners.
The headline on that press release: “Remove potential meals so bears don’t become a nuisance.”
Good advice — and an opinion that was seconded by one of my neighbors just this morning, who approached my dog and I to show us the photos of a big black bear that has been prowling around the neighborhood, feeding on bird seed.
The DIF&W had received more than 40 bear complaints as of May 7, and the department said that a year ago, more than 700 complaints rolled in.
Their warning: Remove foods that might attract bears. Put your grill in the garage. Remove bird feeders. Don’t put out your trash until the day it’ll be picked up.
And get your neighbors to do the same thing.
Earlier this week, I heard from a reader who said that even food kept in apparently bear-proof locations can also be problematic.
Andrea Dyer’s story is funny, but it illustrates how careful we need to be when bears are just beginning to forage, and natural food sources are in short supply.
“We have had a bear situation at our house for the past two years,” Dyer wrote in an email. “We live in an old farmhouse in Presque Isle and two years ago I noticed the shed doors were open one morning. I looked in and the chest freezer was open. Looking into it, several bags of apple slices for pies was missing, and I later found them in my garden, all chewed up.”
It didn’t take much detective work for Dyer to identify the culprit: The bear left a muddy footprint on the front of the freezer.
After that raid, Dyer and her husband saw no sign of the bear for a couple of years. But recently, it — or one if its cohorts — has come back for more snacks.
“It didn’t come back until about a week and a half ago,” Dyer reported. “I noticed one morning that the garage doors were open again, looked in the shed, and the freezer door was up.”
In a subsequent email, Dyer explained that the “garage,” and the “shed” are actually the same place — she and her husband use the words interchangeably.
“There was a pile of garbage under a pine tree by our deck that turned out to be five packages of bacon and a three-pound bag of Easter ham, all torn apart and eaten. We decided that ‘Bruno’ was back at it, or [nighttime freezer raids] ran in the family and it was one of his kids.”
An editorial comment: In addition to a powerful snout, the bear has good taste. Bacon? Ham? Sign me up!
Of course, to the Dyer family, it wasn’t a laughing matter. The next night her husband backed his pickup truck up near the garage doors, hoping to thwart “Bruno,” should he return.
“The doors are old, wooden farm doors that open from the middle out,” Dyer explained. “[They’re] held shut by a round log — very high tech.”
The previous night, the bear had opened the door by lifting the log and pushing in the door. The second night, it had to get a bit more inventive.
“The next morning, the freezer door was up and several more packages of bacon and apple slices for pies was gone,” Dyer wrote. “The bear had pushed the doors in and squeezed through. He had sat on the garage floor and eaten everything, then squeezed back out through the doors.”
Dyer said she’s amazed that the bear figured out not only where the food was, but how to get into the garage.
“I have a mental picture of Bruno sitting in our freezer, deciding what to take,” she wrote.
Since the second visit this year, Dyer’s husband has taken steps to make the bear work harder, with the goal of discouraging it from visiting at all.
And those steps seem to have paid off.
“He hasn’t been back that we know of,” Dyer wrote. “I think the 2 x 10 planks screwed across the door are a bit of a challenge for him.”
Not that she’s counting the bear out quite yet.
“Two years ago he tore the doors apart to get through,” she wrote.
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