Black bear sightings are on the rise in New Hampshire this year. As a lot of suburban Granite Staters are finding out, you don’t have to be camping to encounter a black bear. Sometimes they show up in back yards or on front porches. What to do? Here are a few pointers.
First, what not to do:
Don’t keep filling your bird feeders! Birds are perfectly capable of finding seeds in the spring and summer all on their own. All you are doing is shouting to every bear in the neighborhood: “24 hour buffet, all you can eat, right here!”
Don’t feed bears, ever. They are not Fozzie or Yogi. Feeding makes them less wary of people. We want them to be wary of people. When bears break into cars or buildings or walk down a Main Street looking for food, it is often because people have fed them.
Don’t leave food out at your campsite, don’t burn leftovers (it spreads the scent), don’t bring any food into your tent, and don’t sleep in clothes you wore while cooking. That nylon tent will not stop a hungry bear that smells Skittles.
Don’t panic. Black bears are rarely aggressive to humans. They might claw at the ground or make a false charge to scare you off, but the state advises to “stand your ground.” If you run, you might kick in the bear’s hunting instinct. That’s a bad idea.
Don’t try to speak Russian.
What to do:
If camping, clear the entire campsite of food remnants and wrappers, hang food in a tree or store it in a vehicle. Deodorant and toothpaste can attract bears too, by the way.
If hiking or just walking around the neighborhood, make plenty of noise, and keep the volume on your headphones low enough to hear outside sounds. If you encounter a bear, stand tall, make noise, and slowly back away.
New Hampshire is home to about 5,000 black bears. You might well encounter one. It is a good idea to learn more about them. The state has a great website at http://www.wildlife.state.nh.us/Wildlife/Somethings_Bruin.htm.