Residents advised to take down bird-feeders

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BY STEVE BIGHAM
CITIZENS NEWS

SOUTHBURY [–] State environmental officials are urging residents to take down their bird-feeders to reduce the growing number of interactions between bears and humans.

The issue has become so dire that members of the Department of Environmental and Energy Protection held a news conference to hammer home the point Tuesday at Southbury’s Bent of the River Audubon Center.

“Spring is here and bears are waking up. We’re here today to remind you to take down your bird-feeder and to avoid having bears access food through you, as a human,” said DEEP Deputy Director Mason Trumble. “When bears get access to human-sourced food, like birdseed or grease from your grill, dog food, or trash, that food is rich in calories, and bears are hungry this time of year.”

Trumble said these sources of food teach bears to search for more of those sources of food, which is referred to as being habituated or human conditioned.

“It associates humans with food. That’s a dangerous situation,” Trumble said.

Social media is filled with photos or reports of bears in pools or on swing sets and trampolines.

“That’s not cute,” Trumble added, noting this his agency gets at least 30 calls a year regarding bears entering homes, which, in those cases, state policy requires the bear to be euthanized.

State officials say birds, as they migrate back to the area this time of year, do not need to be fed. In fact, putting out bird seed in the spring is actually doing them a disservice.

“This time of year, a bird’s diet shifts to be alot more insect-based,” noted DEEP Wildlife Division Director Jenny Dickson. “That’s important for them to refuel after migration, and as they move into the nesting and chick-rearing season. So when we keep our bird feeders up, that’s making the birds accustomed to getting a free meal than to actually finding those natural foods that are much better for them at this point, biologically, in their life cycle.”

Dickson said it is not worth a few seconds of enjoyment to witness a beautiful bird knowing that it is teaching a bear to do something that could get it killed.

Dickson said the bear population in Connecticut has grown exponentially over the past decade, mainly because they are so healthy, often giving birth to litters as large as five cubs, which, she said, was once almost unheard of.

Since 2020, DEEP has received 12,000 reports of human conflicts with bears. The number one source of these interactions was trash, followed closely behind by birdfeeders.

Dixon said bird feeders are best hung in December and then through the winter months, but acknowledged that nature can be unpredictable and bears come out of hibernation at all different times.

Bent of the River Manager Robin Ladouceur, said the center off East Flat Hill Road is one of 34 Audubon nature preserves nationwide.

Its mission is to preserve the landscape for birds, provide public education on conservation, and conduct territory bird mapping.

The center is made up of 700 acres and 15 miles of trails.