LANSING (WWJ) – A well-stocked bird feeder is sure to lure an array of featured friends to your yard — but it may also attract bears, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources warns.

Katie Keen, wildlife communications coordinator for the DNR, says hungry black bears that venture too close to people’s homes usually are attracted by food — and it’s often seed and suet in feeders.

“When situations occur concerning a bear, some form of food has usually attracted the bear into the area,” said Keen, in a news release. “The common element is usually a bird feeder – seed, suet and even hummingbird feeders. The good news is a homeowner can choose to take control of the situation.”

Michigan’s bear population is estimated at over 12,000 adults. Of those, about 2,000 are in the northern Lower Peninsula and the others in the Upper Peninsula.

Bears tend to be shy, but will follow their noses to a reliable food supply. If they lose their natural fear of people, they can become dangerous.

“Bear are smart, so we have to be smarter,” said Keen. “They are wild animals that are unpredictable and can travel many miles. Your habits can affect those around you, and a bear that loses its natural fear of humans because food has been introduced can end up being bold or dangerous and may need to be put down.”

In addition to bird feeders, pet food and garbage left outdoors as well as barbecue grills and beehives are other common lures. Keen said there’s plenty homeowners can do to prevent a bear problem before it occurs.

“Don’t wait for the first time a bear knocks down your bird feeder or garbage can; be proactive and don’t let a habit form,” Keen added.

According to the DNR, black bear are generally fearful of humans and flee if they sense you.

Bear experts say that in the rare circumstance that you encounter a bear that does not turn and leave, first try to scare it off by yelling while leaving a clear, unobstructed escape route for the bear. If the bear stands its ground, makes threatening sounds, take slow steps backward while continuing to talk to the bear in a stern tone. In the rare event of an attack, you should fight back with a backpack, stick or your bare hands.

Learn more from DNR on Michigan bears and bear behavior, at this link.

© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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