I had a surprise guest in my garden this morning: Ursus americanus, the North American black bear. Long time readers will recall a similar encounter last summer (see photos here). Coincidentally, while sipping my cup of coffee and browsing the morning paper, I was entertained by a story about the Vermont Governor, a bare-naked Peter Shumlin, chasing four black bear from the bird feeders on his backyard porch. I happen to know Governor Shumlin pretty well, and got a bit of a chuckle out of the story (and if you happen to read this Pete, I apologize, but the mental image of your bare butt being chased by bears was quite amusing).
On a more serious note though, the Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife does issue public warnings each spring, advising residents to remove bird feeders. Hungry bears emerge from hibernation at this time of year and begin to forage for food, and backyard bird feeders are simply too tempting for them to resist. It’s also worth mentioning however, that although bears-at-birdfeeders make headlines, bears and myriad forms of wildlife —including raccoons, possum, coyote and other creatures— are attracted not only to bird seed, but also to compost bins, trash cans, and any other potential food supplies as well; including fresh produce in gardens. The good news is that as Mother Nature’s springtime supply of food increases, bears and other animals will usually retreat back to the forest. Still, at this time of year it’s important to reduce the “free meal” temptation by bringing bird feeders inside and securing trash cans behind closed doors. But what about compost bins? Well the truth is, a hungry bear can destroy most anything in its quest for food. So I’ll likely halt my compost production for at least a short while.
I do enjoy wildlife and although it’s true that a threatened black bear can be dangerous, when viewed from the safety of the house, my passing visitor made for a fascinating and beautiful morning surprise!
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