Northern New England Black Bear
Sharing New England with the American Black Bear
The American Black Bear is one of only two black bear species prolific enough to not be listed as an endangered species. According the the NH Fish and Game Department, the New England black bears can range from 125 to 250 lbs, depending on gender, and most usually have a brown or tan muzzle.
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The Black Bear
The black bear is one of America’s most majestic wild animals. The Urus americanus, or black bear, is a large mammal – males can weigh as much as 250 pounds or more. New Hampshire black bear were hunted to near extinction, and by 1900 there were less than 500 left in the state.
New Hampshire’s forested lands have increased since the turn of the century, and so has the black bear population in the state. New Hampshire Fish and Game Department now estimates more than 5,000 black bear now reside here.
Bears are smart creatures and have both an excellent memory and sense of smell. A black bear can detect food from over a mile away. Once a black bear is aware of a food source they are likely to visit again…and again. Bears tend to shy away from people, but their need for food sometimes draws them to bird feeders and trash bins. Bears have been known to enter homes in search of food. It was recently reported in Bethlehem, NH that bears have been entering vehicles in search of food.
Bear Avoidance Tips
Bear damage to bird feeders is a common and growing problem. The State of New Hampshire Fish and Wildlife Department recommends feeding birds only from December 1 until April 1 – which is when bear are in hibernation. Garbage will attract bears. Keep your garbage in airtight containers and keep the containers inside a locked garage or storage shed. The use of ammonia will greatly reduce odors that attract bear. Do not put garbage for pickup outside overnight.
Keep your compost pile free of bear favorites like sweet food scraps, meat or doughnuts. Bear love doughnuts, jelly beans, and just about anything sweet. Your outdoor grill can also act as a bear magnet. Be sure to clean the sweet smelling Bar-B-Q sauce off the grill when you’re finished cooking. The use of sturdy construction material for your poultry pen will help keep the bears away. Three or four strands of electric fencing, spaced 8 to 10 inches apart, will protect livestock and/or beehives from bears.
The number one rule for avoiding bears is to maintain a clean campsite. Food scraps and fat drippings should be placed in closed containers, not in your campfire. Never cook or eat in your tent. A cooler is not a secure place to keep your food – keep it in your closed vehicle or hang food at least 10 feet off the ground and 16 feet from any vertical surface.
A Bear on the Trail
If you see a bear, keep your distance. Make the bear aware of your presence by clapping, talking or making other sounds. Remove the food. If a bear does not immediately leave after seeing you, it may be because the bear smells food. Occasionally a black bear will "fake charge", or bluff a charge, when it’s cornered or attempting to steal food. Stand your ground and maintain eye contact while slowly back away. Do not turn your back and run. Black bears do not typically exhibit aggressive behavior, even when confronted. Black bears rarely attack. The last time a person was killed by a bear in New Hampshire was 1784. Bear claws can rip through clothing and skin quite easily.
Who Ya Gonna Call?
Bear Busters. No, but The State of New Hampshire will be happy to answer your bear questions. The toll-free number is 888-SHY-BEAR (888-749-2327).
- Rick Rock for Northern New England.com with special thanks to the State of NH Dept. Of Wildlife.
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