A couple of weeks ago we had a posting about attracting birds to your yard and garden. One of our readers asked if we had any information about feeding birds without attracting bears. This was a great question since it’s a problem that many of us who live in the mountains have to contend with. Just six weeks ago we had a bear climb over our dog’s fence and then the stair railing so it could come onto our deck to get to our bird feeders. I can tell you that Jack was pretty surprised to see a bear about ten feet from where he was sitting inside of our house! The bear destroyed our feeders and then took off with one of them. He (she?) sat in the field eating bird food until a passing car scared it away. This was the first time we’ve ever had that problem and we’re definitely more careful now.
It’s taken a little bit of time for me to get to this, but I wanted to make sure to get the best information to you that I could find. After researching a variety of articles from sources that include parks departments, birding websites, departments of fish and game, and many other agencies, I’ve found that the same few basic recommendations are presented by all of them.
Not putting bird feeders out unless the bears are hibernating is the most common suggestion for keeping them out of feeders. Many of us do want to feed birds in the spring to fall months as well as in the winter, so if you do want to put feeders out when bears are out of hibernation, making sure they’re at least 10′ off the ground and from any surface and that they are mounted on something bears can’t climb. Bringing your feeders in at night is highly recommended. Be sure to keep the seed cleaned up around the area where the feeders hang. Bears have a great sense of smell and even small amounts of seeds and other bird food (such as hummingbird nectar and suet) can attract them.
Having a good source of water, especially running water, is highly recommended. No running water in your yard? How about putting in a water fountain? It wouldn’t need to run 24 hours a day. You can put it on a timer to run during daylight hours when the birds are out. The sound of the running water will attract birds to your yard.
If you can, plant flowers that attract birds. There are many colorful varieties that will bring hummingbirds as well as other birds to your yard. You can also put up bird houses and nesting boxes to create an environment the birds will enjoy. This year we have blue birds, tree swallows, and wrens nesting in homes we’ve put up for them. I plan to put more homes up next year to (hopefully) gain a larger variety of birds making their homes in our yard.
For additional information, check out the following sources:
Attracting Birds, Not Bears (Colorado Parks and Wildlife)
Backyard Attractants (bearsmartdurango.org)
Feed Birds, Not Bears (Get Bear Smart Society)
Protect Bird Feeders from Bears (birding.about.com)