NEWPORT — Normally, December 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. The Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department is now urging people to wait for colder weather and snow before putting up their bird feeders in order to avoid attracting bears.
“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.
Fish & Wildlife suggests Vermonters wait for six or more inches of snow that lasts before putting out bird feeders, especially if you have been visited in the past by bears or if there are sightings of bears in your neighborhood.
Due to lack of snow and frozen ground, birds are able to forage in fields and forests for their natural foods anyway.
“Female bears normally go into their dens before males,” Hammond said. “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.”
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.