CONCORD — The New Hampshire Fish and Game Department advises that purposeful and inadvertent feeding of black bears can result in serious bear conflicts and even the death of the black bears themselves, according to Fish and Game Wildlife Chief Mark Ellingwood.
“Any feeding of bears is ill advised and potentially illegal in N.H.,” Ellingwood said. “Of equal importance, feeding can and often does result in a tragic outcome for bears.”
Ellingwood said each year the Fish and Game Department and USDA Wildlife Services expend significant time and effort addressing bear problems caused by the purposeful feeding of bears. Even indirect feeding — allowing bears to access unsecured trash, dine at back yard birdfeeders, or habitually enter plastic-topped dumpsters — can lead to problematic behaviors that lead to the removal or death of a bear.
“In New Hampshire, the saying that ‘a fed bear is a dead bear’ is more than an old adage; it’s a reality that our staff has to contend with throughout the spring and summer months,” he said.
Each year, many bears graduate from being purposefully fed or gaining access to plastic-topped dumpsters, unsecured trash cans and birdfeeders to more serious behaviors, including home entries, that can result in the bear being killed.
A rapid increase in the popularity of backyard chicken coops in New Hampshire has been accompanied by an increase in the number of bear/chicken conflicts. Fish and Game urges people raising chickens to properly pen their animals (free-ranging or poorly housed chickens are a magnet for a myriad of predators), to use readily available electric fencing and to build secure coops. Doing so will save money, chickens — and chicken predators, including bears.
Many people fail to recognize their animals’ vulnerability to predation until after the fact, Ellingwood said.
“We’ve observed a notable increase in the number of bears being shot by the public for killing chickens in New Hampshire,” he said. “Beekeepers understand that the prudent use of electric fencing can prevent bear conflicts; backyard chicken growers can achieve the same success by adopting the same practices.”