DNR Says Black Bears Awakening From Hibernation, Looking For Food

Agency urges residents to keep black bears wild.

Photo of black bear

Black bear at Savage River Reservoir, Garrett County. Photo by Stephen Badger/Maryland DNR


Annapolis, Md (KM) It’s spring and that’s when black bears are waking up from their winter hibernation. “This time of year things are pretty lean as far as food goes,” says Harry Spiker, State Black Bear Biologist with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. . “As thing green up as more plant get green and the seasons roll on, more and more food is produced by the plants. The bulk of their diet is vegetarian.”

Spiker says it’s important for residents who live in bear country to not leave food outside in garbage cans or residue from cooking with outdoor grills. That can attract black bears. “They got really , really good noses and they follow the smell of food for quite a distance,”: he says. “And they got really good memories so if they get fed from a bird feeder or a trash can, they tend to remember and want to come back.”

He says store your garbage in a bear-proof bin, and keep it locked inside until the day of pickup. In addition, DNR says remove bird feeders between April and November. . Birds have plenty of wild food sources during the spring. And burn off any food residue from an outside barbecue.

Spiker another way to discourage bears from coming on to your property looking for food is to clean out your garbage cans  with ammonia.

“Some people will attract them in intentionally because they want to see them. But that’s  really a bad thing to do because then they go to neighbor’s house,” Spiker says. “And neighbors are not feeding them and the bear doesn’t know. So  just eliminating food eliminates the issue.”

Spiker says black bears are not known to attack humans. He says these animals try to avoid people. . But if you happen to see one on your property, Spiker says make a lot of noise. “Bangs some pots. Clap you hands,” he says. “It’s a good practice because it lets the bear know it’s not welcome.”

DNR says most black bears are found in the western Maryland counties of Frederick, Washington, Allegany and Garrett. Spiker says each year, the Department receives complaints about bears being a nuisance. “The number of conflicts has stayed pretty stable over the last five to ten years. But we’re seeing a shift and more of them in Washington and Frederick County, not as many in Garrett and Allegany,” he says. “Folks in Garrett and Allegany have been living with them longer and have learned how to take these precautions.”


By Kevin McManus