We hang birdfeeders in summer as well as winter. We know we are not doing this for the birds...we are doing it for ourselves. The birds will be perfectly fine without our food. On the other hand, we would not be fine if we didn't see all our friendly birds so often. Because of the feeders, the birds nest nearby. Because of the feeders we have the delight of seeing parents bringing their fledglings where we watch their clumsy attempts at learning to feed themselves. They amuse us all summer long.
Birdfeeders are a magnet for black bears in the mountains. Many people believe the bears want only food, but birdseed is a special treat for them. It's not enough to keep your garbage secured. Our community has been established for more than 35 years, so bear sightings are not common as they once were. On the other hand, we have a lot of green space and border a national forest, so there will always be an occasional encounter. Most of the encounters with the bears occur because a homeowner did something stupid. Like leaving dog food outside the door, or leaving leftover food on the porch, or throwing bread crumbs out for the birds, or hanging bird feeders from the ground, or leaving bird feeders up overnight.
The bears are awake and moving now as they always are in the spring. Last week, this picture was in the Asheville newspaper. There were three black bears, although the photograph shows only two of them. They climbed up to a second-story deck to feast at the bird feeders.
Photo from the Asheville Citizen-Times
There is no sure way to keep black bears from birdfeeders short of removing the feeders completely. That is a fact. There are a few other things that may reduce the attraction. We hang the birdfeeders off a second-story deck. In summer we feed only low-residue seeds. They are much more expensive, but there is little waste and fewer seeds on the ground. (An added benefit is that the birds remain at the feeders longer since they don't have to crack any seeds.) We bring the feeders in before dusk, much to the chagrin of the cardinals who really like to feed at this time. We hang them again after sunrise. We regularly use a leaf blower to dispurse any seeds on the ground.
----------Despite all this, we are fully aware that nothing will stop the bears if people like us continue to feed the birds. So we are doing this fully aware that we might have a visitor. If so, we will definitely stop feeding the birds except for the winter. I would miss them terribly, but it wouldn't be fair to have a black bear learn that humans provide food in the form of birdseeds.
----------Fortunately, we have not seen any bear signs near our end of the community. No scat, no rubbing, no digging for larvae. Be assured that if we do, our birdfeeders will come down for all except the winter months when the bears are hibernating.
The bears are extremely clever and can get to almost any feeder.
Photo from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology Photo from NY Dept of Environmental Conservation
So we keep our fingers crossed that the bears do not wander our way. Because, much as we adore our birds at the feeders, the feeders will come down should we have evidence of bear activity.