The other night, I was mindlessly scrolling through Facebook while waiting for my daughter to fall asleep (I am sure some of you can relate) when a neighbor shared that a bear had been wandering into yards only a few streets away. Not only did she share, but she also posted a video. It wasn't a small little cub, but quite the sizeable bear. Normally that shouldn't scare me if I'm safely tucked into my home for the night, but we have a puppy who needs to be let out before bed. He's very small and cannot be left alone outside due to predators (I know a bear wouldn't bother him) and other reasons. So I need to stay with him each time. Native Granite Staters consider bears to be "big squirrels" and advise to ignore them. However, as someone who was raised in a city, I cannot relate to that point of view. That night, my plan consisted of banging two cans together and making a lot of noise while my dog did his business. My neighbors probably though I was nuts. At work the next day, I shared my story with some colleagues and realized that I'm not the only one with this fear. Spring is here, along with the bears. Here are some tips:
Take down your bird feeders. Black bears wake-up hungry and are looking for food sources. Luckily for us, humans usually aren't on their menu but they do want some of our food. We had a bear hop a fence a few years ago and bend an iron rod to get to my neighbor's bird feeder. Make sure to wrap and cover your garbage at night, and keep inside if possible. I haven't had trouble with my compost bin, because I've heard they're not as interested in rotting produce, but I do have some friends who've experienced otherwise. Unfortunately bears are known to return to known sources of food, so you can't get lax if you want to keep them away. I haven't had a bird feeder in my yard for years, though it may be possible in the winter when bears are snoozing and local birds are looking for sustenance.
Make noise when you hike and go out at dawn/dusk. When I shared with my can method with a friend, she said she does something similar while camping. A few rocks or coins in a soda/beer can, and shake while she hangs around the campfire. Another friend of mine ties some bells to her backpack while out in the woods. Or just bring some loud and talkative people along with you. I heard a rumor that bears are more afraid of us than we are of them (truthfully, not sure I believe it), but the noise will supposedly keep them away
Fight deforestation and the loss of natural habitats. I remember talking to a woman at Fish and Game who lamented the loss of forests and connected that problem to the fact that we have more bears in our residential areas. This situation is tricky, as I know that NH has a housing crisis and we need more affordable homes. So what we can do? Donate to conservation organizations or support in other ways. Encourage reusing existing structures, rather than cutting down wild areas in order to construct new commercial properties. Lots of new homes coming to Concord, including reworking the State buildings right near Exit 14. The less free land for animals, the more they will sneak into our neighborhoods.
That said, if you live in New Hampshire for a while, you will likely run into a bear at some point. Stay calm. Do not run or start yelling. Slowly walk/back away to show the bear that you mean no harm. Make sure the bear has a way to escape and you are not blocking their path. Once you get to safety, brag about your bravery to your friends. At least that's what I'd do! Also, make sure to teach your kids about what to do if a bear wanders into the yard while they're playing. (Though if the kids are loud enough, that likely won't happen.) Never thought that'd be a conversation I'd have, but that's life in NH. Enjoy our first spring weekend. I'm going to try and get one more ski day, because clearly I can't let go of winter.