Town Manager Jodi Ross has announced that recently there have been four instances of bears entering backyards to eat chickens from residential chicken coops and another report of a bear eating a rabbit from a rabbit hutch.
Ross advised residents to immediately call 978-692-2161 if they see a bear, with the announcement also presenting the following tips from the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife.
- Most importantly, people should remove or secure food sources that may attract or tempt bears.
- Take down bird feeders by April 1 (earlier if bears are active) and don’t put them back up until December 1. Feeders may be hung from a wire at least 8 feet from the ground, but even if the feeders are inaccessible or “bear proofed”, bears may be attracted by spilled seed. Birds do not need supplemental food in spring and summer and will not suffer from the lack of artificial feeding. Use other means, such as flower beds, dusting sites, bird baths, and nesting boxes to attract birds for your enjoyment.
- If feeding pets outside, be sure that all pet food is consumed at a single feeding. Don’t leave pet food or dirty food dishes outside overnight. Bears will be attracted to pet foods stored in trash cans or sheds. Be sure that bears cannot tip over and open food containers or break into sheds. Food odors may attract bears even if they can’t gain access.
- Store all garbage in closed containers in a secure garage or inside location. Small bags of garbage may also be frozen and placed in the trash immediately before pickup. Do not leave trash cans unattended overnight. Wash and rinse cans regularly since bears may be attracted by odors. Double-bagging trash and placing ammonia, bleach, or camphor in the cans may reduce food odors but is not a guarantee that bears will avoid the trash.
- Clean greasy barbecues and picnic grills with an ammonia-based cleanser after using them. Grills may be covered with aluminum foil prior to use to minimize soiling of the grill surface. Dispose of used foil in a secure container. Gas grills should be operated on high setting after cooking to burn off food residues. Do not leave food scraps, spilled grease, or dirty picnic utensils at your picnic area. Scrub and cleanse picnic tables and benches.
- Do not place meat scraps, fruit or vegetable remains, or sweet materials in your compost pile or bin. Bears (and other wildlife) may be attracted to these items.
- Do not leave soiled diapers or diaper pails outside. Bears will be attracted to and feed upon the fruit and vegetable residue in the diapers.
- Be sure that your home is secured against wildlife, especially during warm weather. Do not leave home with the screen door locked and the inside door open. Bears can and will break through the screening to get at food items in your kitchen. In at least 1 instance in Massachusetts, bears gained entry by pushing an air conditioner into the house and entering through the hole. Turn off kitchen exhaust fans when not in use and clean grease from the grill and vent screen regularly.
- Be prepared before bears come to your residence or your local area. Once the animals have fed on human food, they will be more difficult to repel or frighten. Mild aggression by people is useful in asserting dominance over timid bears when they first appear. Do not approach a bear closely. If the bear huffs or blows, pops its jaws, or hits the ground, the animal is warning you that you are too close to it and you should back away. If the bear does not yield or flee, promptly move to your vehicle or a building. Notify MassWildlife District offices or Environmental Police of an aggressive or non-yielding bear.
- Banging of pots and pans, loud music, and bright lights may have a limited effect when bears initially appear but will probably be ineffective once bears are habituated to people and conditioned to human foods. Super Soaker® water guns, Scarecrow® water spraying repellers, boat horns, or Critter Gitter® strobe/siren units may also be effective against some bears. Do not use ammonia or any substance other than water in water guns. Noisemakers may be inappropriate in residential areas. Certain aversive devices including pyrotechnics, less-than-lethal projectiles, and pepper spray are restricted or prohibited in Massachusetts and should not be used by untrained or unauthorized persons.
- Never deliberately feed bears to attract them to your property.
Patricia Huckery, northeast district supervisor for the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, will be at the Westford Police Station Training Room on Nov. 6 at 7 .m. to answer more questions.
Anyone else with questions can e-mail [email protected]