Visits most frequently occur from late winter through early summer when other food sources may be scarce and bears are emerging from hibernation, often with hungry cubs in tow. Bears are omnivorous and eat a wide variety of foods, but the majority of their diet is plant material – seeds, fruits, grains.
Remove Feeders: If bears are a consistent problem, it may be best to remove feeders entirely during the spring and summer. Birds will find plenty of other natural food sources. Taking feeders in at night can also deter bears, though if there is a lot of spilled seed they may still visit.
Clean Feeding Areas: Keep bird feeding areas clean by using a yard vacuum to remove spilled seed and hulls, use trays or mesh nets underneath feeders to catch seed and clean the feeders regularly. Not only will this eliminate the food, but it will also minimize odors that could attract bears.
Mount Feeders Properly: Bears will climb poles to reach feeders or may lean on poles to knock feeders down. A sturdy, metal pole with the feeder 10-12 feet high is best to discourage bears, but the pole should be secure enough in the ground that it cannot be knocked over or easily uprooted. Feeders could also be mounted on cables or wires strung between two trees, so long as the feeder is high enough and at least 5-6 feet away from a tree bears could climb.
Choose Alternative Foods: Bears are most attracted to suet and seed feeders, but will also sip at leaking nectar feeders or try feeders where fruit is offered. Instead of offering these treats to backyard birds, offer bitter-tasting safflower seed or Nyjer and plant natural foods instead of feeders. While bears will still investigate many natural sources – especially fruit – they are less likely to linger if feeders aren’t available.
Choose Sturdier Feeders: The powerful claws and jaws of bears can overcome any bird feeder. Most bears are industrious and will persist after a tempting feeder until they succeed, but less vulnerable feeders may discourage some bears from snacking. Choose feeders made from solid metal or thick, durable recycled plastic. Tube feeders and cage feeders also offer more difficult feeding access for bears.
Store Seed Properly: Be sure birdseed is stored properly in airtight, secure containers, and ideally store it indoors in a garage or shed that bears cannot enter.
Eliminate Other Foods: Bears wandering into backyards for birdseed may find other easy foods that tempt them to stay. Remove outdoor pet foods, keep trash secure, tend compost piles properly to eliminate odors and keep barbecue grills clean so there are no other smells or foods that could lure bears.
Spice Up the Seed: Add liberal amounts of red pepper to a birdseed mix. Sprinkling pepper over the ground or using vinegar or ammonia on the ground around the feeder can also help deter sensitive bears.
Water Lawns at Night: Setting automatic sprinklers to run during nighttime hours can also discourage bears. While not a strong stand alone method, this can be helpful in conjunction with other methods.
Lights On: Install motion sensor-operated lights. Bears will trigger the lights when they approach. Most bears will head for darker areas away from the feeders where they feel more secure.
Keep Fences in Good Repair: Strong metal fences at least six feet tall are best for deterring bears, and gates should be kept closed at all times.