Maryland’s black bears are leaving their winter dens. As they emerge, they are hungry and searching for food. Natural food sources for bears — such as acorns, plants, berries, and insects — are in short supply until later in the spring, so the bears are attracted to anything that smells like food.
Homeowners who leave human-generated food sources out in the open may unintentionally draw bears to residential areas. Residents of Maryland’s bear country are urged to be proactive and exercise good judgment to avoid creating man-made attractions for bears.
The Maryland Department of Natural Resources advises:
- Locking garbage in a bear-proof trash bin or storing trash containers in a locked garage or shed until the morning of trash pickup;
- Rinsing out trash containers with ammonia to eliminate odors;
- Storing cooking grills inside and keeping them clean of food residue; and
- Removing backyard bird feeders from April through November (birds have plenty of wild food sources during this time).
“Keeping bears wild is a community effort that benefits bears and people,” said Wildlife and Heritage Director Paul Peditto. “Using care to avoid attracting bears now will help keep them away throughout the year and ensure they remain in the wild.”
Bears are most common in Maryland’s four westernmost counties – Allegany, Frederick, Garrett, and Washington. However, they can be found anywhere in central and southern Maryland, particularly during spring when young male bears tend to wander into new areas looking for a chance to establish their own territory.
More information on living with bears is available online.