Its first visit was a week ago Wednesday morning when we awoke to find three feeders in the back yard fallen over like matchsticks. We suspected deer. Deer aren't numerous around our area, but I had sighted one in our yard recently. I figured that a good size deer eating from the feeders would have no trouble knocking them over in our loose, sandy "soil".
I left those feeders down, yet the next morning awoke to this in the front yard:
This feeder station had the 16 gauge steel pole of the WBU Advanced Pole System bent, the feeder intact with no damage, but empty. We thought bear, but found no tracks, no scat, no major damage from teeth or claw.
The feeders on the other setup were also intact. In fact, the peanut butter suet feeder was left on the ground uneaten, the mesh peanut feeder was left filled and undamaged, and the seed cylinder was only half-eaten. These seemed like significant clues as to who our bandit wasn't - we couldn't see a bear leaving all that food uneaten. And we figured a deer, standing on its hind legs, might very well have the weight and leverage to bend steel. Male whitetails can weigh up to 400 pounds, females up to 250 pounds.
We cleaned up the mess, but still had two other feeding stations standing. And they were intact Friday and Saturday mornings. That changed last Saturday night.
I was half-asleep at about 10:30pm when I heard the sound of knocks on wood. My old cat Jess tries to climb the stairs occasionally and when she does, her old bones and joints make clunking noises on the bare wood stairs. I thought she was venturing upstairs and whenever I hear her attempting the climb, I usually get up to give her a lift.
I was at the top of the stairs, didn't see Jess, and the noise continued. Through the casement window at the base of the stairs I saw the source - a small Black Bear pawing at the window trying to reach the suction cup window feeder!
He saw me and ran off into the night. Looking out through the windows with a flashlight to illuminate things, I saw that he had ripped a mounting flange out of a 4"x4" pole to access three feeders on this feeding station.
He hadn't bothered the feeder out front, but at 10:30pm at night with a bear on the prowl, I decided to leave it be.
In the morning, I saw he had returned. Since his visit at 10:30pm, he had snapped this pole to get at the large feeder on top, then walked off with the feeder. He also took off with two feeders from his earlier vandalism.
We found all the feeders in the woods, empty but no worse for the wear. Through it all, though seven feeding stations were toppled holding 13 feeders, only 2 feeders had minor damage (I have to put in a plug that these were all Wild Birds Unlimited quality feeders!) and 2 base poles need to be replaced.
The window he had been pawing at had two foot prints below it - the only tracks we really found. And the window is smeared from his fur swiping at the window trying to reach the window feeder. One paw print is visible on the window. This was not a large bear: Black Bears (Ursus americanus) stand 5-6 feet tall - this guy was unable to reach the window feeder that was mounted six feet off the ground.
Black Bear Facts
An average adult male weighs about 300 pounds while females average about 170 pounds.
Black bears are omnivorous, eating grasses, berries, fruit, nuts, seeds, insects, grubs, and carrion, as well as human sources of food like corn, honey, bird seed, trash, and pet food when available.
The Adirondacks are home to a population of almost 4,000 bears, which is the largest black bear population in New York State and the 3rd largest population in the US.
Bears are Curious - They spend a great deal of time exploring for food, and this can bring them close to humans.
Bears are Intelligent - Bears learn from experience. If an activity results in food, they will repeat that activity. If an encounter with a human is negative, they learn to avoid humans. Also if an encounter with a human doesn't result in a reward (food), they will not have any reason to have contact with humans.
Feeding Bears is Bad for Bears - Bear's natural foraging habits and behavior can be changed.
Never deliberately feed bears and avoid unintentionally feeding bears. If you avoid attracting and rewarding bears, you, your property and the bears will all benefit.
If you have bears in your area and like to feed the birds, here are some suggestions:
- Bring all of your feeders in at night.
- Don't leave spilled birdseed lying on the ground.
- Keep your birdseed supply indoors.
- Don't hang your bird feeder from your front porch.
- In areas where bears are very prevalent, don't feed birds during the months when bears are most active (late March through November).
- If you do have a bear in your yard, don't approach it.
Read more at New York State Department of Environmental Conservation's site, "Discouraging Black Bears Around Home and Camp".
Back on the home front, we have been diligent in bringing in ALL of our feeders every night right before dusk. We leave them out as long as possible before nightfall for the night-migrating birds before they take flight. And we put them back out first thing in the morning, though not early enough for some of the earliest risers.
Sure, it's a pain. And we have fewer feeders out right now than usual. But I don't want to see bears pawing at my windows again. So we're hoping Mr. Bear moves on so we can resume our feeding stations as usual, and soon!