Blackberry Black Bear began visiting this Rowe Hill yard in mid-May. On the first, nighttime, visit he pushed over the the sunflower-seed barrel of bird food, scattering the seeds, and the cast-iron pot, marble chips and garden gloves that sat atop the barrel. He then gorged on the seeds.
Homeowners removed the remaining seeds, and left the barrel empty, but on return visits, including the daytime visit here (photographed through a screen), the bear ritually knocked it over (hope springs eternal). On a later visit, the bear got into the nearby barn, found a thistle-seed container and dragged it out, for a midnight snack on the lawn. The homeowners duly removed those remaining seeds, and, with his food supply cut off, Blackberry's visits soon stopped — or appear to have.
Maine I.F.&W. bear expert Randy Cross said Blackberry was probably a 2 1/2-year-male. "This is also the most common sex and age class of bears that inadvertently move into a backyard lifestyle as they disperse from their natal home range and explore the possibilities in lifestyle that exist out there. Food rewards can quickly convince bears like this that grubbing for a living in the woods is harder than mooching off garbage, pet food and bird feeders in neighborhoods."
The visits can be discouraged, Cross said, by removing food sources and not allowing the bear to become too comfortable in the neighborhood. For example, by napping on porches, which Blackberry did on at least two occasions, or by clog sniffing.
I.F.&W. biologist Ashley Malinowski said nuisance-bear situation have become increasingly common. "There are a lot of factors that could potentially be driving it. Some of those factors: decrease in the number of people hunting/harvesting bears, increased bear population (which ties in with less people hunting/trapping them), late and mild winter (this means that the bears went into the den a little bit later because there was more time to access natural foods before going into the dens."
With more bears have more food access, hunting them becomes more difficult and fewer are harvested.
"Also, when sows (female bears) come out of the den with yearlings (cubs that have reached 1 year of age) in the spring they keep them around until food sources begin to become available, at which point they start to shoo them away and the young males [such as Blackberry] begin dispersing and trying to find their own territory.
"During years when cub/yearling survival rates are high, that means more young bears that are dispersing and trying to find somewhere to live and forage."