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Wait until bears hibernate before putting your bird feeder in your yard or on your deck. Photo courtesy of Bear Wise (www.bearwise.org)

Is it safe yet to feed birds?

Waiting to put your feeders out until bears hibernate is good for your bird feeders and good for bears. Otherwise you could lose your feeders to a hungry bear. And teach bears that backyards are good places to look for food. Bears spend the fall and early winter foraging up to 20 hours a day, trying to gain enough weight to survive their long winter's nap. The sunflower seeds in just one bird feeder can add up to more than 18,000 life-sustaining calories and take just minutes to gobble down. Once a bear learns how easy and rewarding it is to forage in people's backyards, most bears will come back looking for more high-calorie treats. And since bears are very smart and quick learners, they'll also start exploring the neighborhood looking for more "bear" feeders, or anything else that might be good to eat. In much of the country, most bears have turned in by Thanksgiving. Up north, bears are often snoozing by Halloween. But in some areas of the Deep South many bears don’t really hibernate at all, they just take more siestas in the winter. Mothers with cubs are the first bears to hibernate; adult male bears are the last. Exactly when those last bears head to their dens can vary from year to year, depending on the availability of natural foods. So, if you do put your feeders out and see any signs of bears in your neighborhood, please bring them in and wait at least 10 days before you try again.

Submitted by Will Jackson for Bear Wise.

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