MONTPELIER — The Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department is urging people to wait for colder weather and snow before putting up their bird feeders in order to avoid attracting bears.
The department is hearing from people who want to know if they should put out their bird feeders. Normally, Dec. 1 is the recommended start date for feeding birds in Vermont, but this year's lack of snow is keeping some bears from going into their winter dens.
"An abundance of beechnuts and apples coupled with our lack of snow cover this year have resulted in male bears staying active, rather than denning for the winter," said Forrest Hammond, Vermont Fish & Wildlife's bear biologist.
"Female bears normally go into their dens before males," he added. "Males tend to enter their dens in response to most of their foods being unavailable to them rather than to cold temperatures. Without snow covering the ground some males are still foraging for nuts and apples."
"We suggest waiting for six or more inches of snow that lasts before putting out your bird feeders, especially if you have been visited in the past by bears or if there are sightings of bears in your neighborhood," said Hammond. "Due to lack of snow and frozen ground, birds are able to forage in fields and forests for their natural foods."
Surveys have shown that feeding birds and watching wildlife are popular with Vermonters. A 2011 federal survey revealed that people spend more than $280 million annually to watch wildlife in the state. Feeding birds at home is considered the primary wildlife watching activity.