Be aware of bears this spring; DNR lists tips for avoiding conflicts

Homeowners are reminded to be aware of bears this spring and check their property for food sources that could attract bears.  

“Bears are roaming around now with the loss of snow and warmer weather, so interactions with people have started in many areas of Minnesota,” said Eric Nelson, wildlife damage program supervisor for the Department of Natural Resources.

As bears emerge from hibernation, their metabolism gradually ramps up and they will begin looking for food at a time when berries and green vegetation can be scarce. Remove attractants such as bird seed, garbage, livestock feed, or compost to reduce potential conflict. Attracting bears to yards can lead to property damage and presents dangers to bears.

Black bears are the only bear species that live in the wild in Minnesota. They usually are shy and flee when encountered. Never approach or try to pet a bear. Injury to people is rare, but bears are potentially dangerous because of their size, strength and speed.

The DNR does not relocate problem bears. Relocated bears seldom remain where they are released. They may return to where they were caught or become a problem somewhere else.

The DNR offers some tips for avoiding bear conflicts:

Around the yard

  • Do not feed birds from April 1 to Nov. 15. Anytime you feed birds, you risk attracting bears.
  • If you must feed birds, hang birdfeeders 10 feet up and 4 feet out from the nearest trees. Use a rope and pulley system to refill birdfeeders, and clean up spilled seeds.
  • Do not put out feed for wildlife (like corn, oats, pellets or molasses blocks).
  • Replace hummingbird feeders with hanging flower baskets, which are also attractive to hummingbirds.
  • Do not leave food from barbeques and picnics outdoors, especially overnight. Coolers are not bear-proof.
  • Clean and store barbeque grills after each use. Store them in a secure shed or garage away from windows and doors.
  • Elevate bee hives on bear-proof platforms or erect properly designed electric fences.
  • Pick fruit from trees as soon as it’s ripe and collect fallen fruit immediately.
  • Limit compost piles to grass, leaves and garden clippings, and turn piles regularly. Do not add food scraps.
  • Harvest garden produce as it matures. Locate gardens away from forests and shrubs that bears may use for cover.
  • Use native plants in landscaping whenever possible.
  • Store pet food inside and feed pets inside. If pets must be fed outdoors, feed them only as much as they will eat.

Garbage

  • Store garbage in bear-resistant garbage cans or dumpsters. Rubber or plastic garbage cans are not bear-proof.
  • Keep garbage inside a secure building until the morning of pickup.
  • Properly rinse all recyclable containers with hot water to remove all remaining product.
  • Store recyclable containers, such as pop cans, inside.

People should always be cautious around bears. If bear problems persist after cleaning up food sources, contact a DNR area wildlife office for advice. For the name of the local wildlife manager, contact the DNR Information Center at 651-296-6157 or 888-646-6367, or visit mndnr.gov/contact/locator.html.

Last year the DNR asked the public to report bear sightings outside primary bear range in Minnesota. Male bears are known to travel long distances in search of new habitat and food, and there is a public perception that bear range has expanded in the central and southern counties of the state. For a map showing the primary bear range and to report a bear sighting outside of this range, visit mndnr.gov/bear.

For more about living in bear habitat, visit mndnr.gov/livingwith_wildlife/bears.