Connecticut Audbon Society


Keeping bears away from your bird feeder

Black Bear in Connecticut, photographed by Patrick Comins.

March 26, 2021 — It was cold enough through the winter for bears in Connecticut to lie low. But with warmer weather, they’ll revive. And they’ll be hungry, which can be a problem for people who love to feed birds in their yard.

If a black bear finds your bird feeder, you can count on having to get a new feeder. And probably a new pole as well. They’ll clean out the feeder, maybe carrying it off with them, and no doubt bend the pole into an unusable pretzel.

The Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection recommends taking your feeders down from late March through November. That’s advice we follow at our Deer Pond Farm in Sherman, where signs of bear are common.

Like most things, bears aren’t always a black or white issue, black bears and polar bears notwithstanding.

Most bears are omnivorous. They’ll eat almost anything. Grizzly bears in some places spend a few weeks each year eating only the insects that get blown up mountain sides and die on the snow.

Luckily grizzlies aren’t a concern here. The only bears in Connecticut are black bears, which are more interested in avoiding humans than confronting them. Not that you want to confront one.

Black bears love sunflower seed. They aren’t huge fans of the nyger that you might be feeding to your finches, but they will eat it on occasion. It’s been said they don’t like safflower seeds.

These redpolls are eating thistle, which is not a favorite foor of Black Bears. Photo by Nick Bonomo.

As the CT DEEP recommends, giving a break to feeding is probably in order and maybe the bear will move on and you can start again at some point. 

There are always things you can do on your property that will attracts birds year-round, not just in winter.

A recirculating fountain birdbath is almost guaranteed to attract birds. They need water especially in iced-over weather and the trickling sound of the the fountain is like cat-nip.

Sometimes you can outwit bears by a pulley system on something like a clothesline, or a atop a 10-foot pole as thick as a telephone pole.

Capsaicin — the active component of chili peppers — can help. We have no Scoville scale advice but be sure to wear eye protection when mixing it in if you use the powder and to wash your hands thoroughly before touching your eyes. There are some foods that are pre coated. 

Plant bird-friendly native plants like winterberry, viburnums and dogwoods. Plants a pollinator gardens, because most birds eat insects but also because in winter when the flowers have died off birds will visit to glean seeds.






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