Do you have Wild Neighbors?

Our wild neighbors are back. They’re big, they’re troublesome and sometimes they’re a bit scary. I’m talking about our neighborhood black bears.

Living in rural New Jersey affords my family and I some very beautiful opportunities to see wildlife. It also means that we have to learn how to live in harmony with these wild neighbors.

We live among deer, hawks, snakes, frogs, and yes black bears. The deer population seems to have grown overnight and have become somewhat of a nuisance especially to our landscape, but they’re just not as threatening when you spot them in the evening as the bears are.

Yesterday we saw a black bear hanging out near a pond in our neighbor’s yard. We were close enough to see him but far enough away to feel safe. Later that night, this same black bear (at least I hope there is only one) found our garbage and had a feast. Time to do some wild neighbor proofing in our yard.

Black bears are generally shy and avoid contact with people. However, bears are opportunistic omnivores; they prefer the most easily accessible meal, whether it is human food, garbage, bird food, livestock feed, or pet food.

Here are a few steps I will be taking this week to help deter our new neighbor from visiting too often:

  • Garbage cans will be stored in the shed and will only be taken out a few hours before picked up.
  • All pet food will be stored inside. Bird feeders will be taken down for the season and put back up during hibernation.
  • Grill will be washed especially after meat has been cooked. All utensils will be brought in at nighttime.
  • Neighbors will be made aware of our visit so they can take precautions too.
  • Pets will be let in at nighttime or locked up in the barns to keep them safe (we have lost two pet bunnies to bears in the past.)

Usually, once the growing season starts the bears go deeper in the woods to find their nutrition and then head back to our backyard come late summer/early fall. Hopefully the woods will be very filling so they don’t need to supplement their diets here.

Do you have neighbors of the “wild” kind? What do you find works for ways to live in harmony with these creatures? Share your tips here.

Sandi Duncan is the Managing Editor of the Farmers' Almanac. Click here to read Sandi's full biography.

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