Make it a BearWise Spring on the Ridge

May is a busy time of year for bears! Many bears are up and about, leaving their dens for good. Cubs are learning how to climb up (and down) trees, how to “talk”, and starting to experiment with bear food other than mom’s milk. Mother bears are starting to leave the youngsters alone and traveling up to two miles to search for food.

With all this bear activity occurring, why wait until a bear is checking out your bird feeder, pet food or garbage to address a problem? Taking action now can help keep bears wild and away from homes and neighborhoods. Here are some steps you can take to be BearWise this spring.

  1. Litter Patrol: Empty bottles, cans, and bags still smell like food. Picking up trash that mysteriously appeared over the winter will remove attractants and give you a chance to look over your property and remember what’s on your spring to-do list. It also helps keep your neighborhood clean and looking great!


  1. Time For a Bath: Anything that holds garbage emits smells that can attract bears. Give all your containers a good bath and spray inside with a disinfectant or ammonia. Don’t use lemon-scented trash can liners or tape fruity air fresheners inside the lid; they smell like the real thing to a bear.


  1. Lock It or Lose It: An overflowing trash container makes it easy for a bear to score a lot of calories for very little work. In early spring, most bears are still losing weight and working hard to find food, so the all-you-can-scrounge buffet of a trash can is even more appealing. Bears are very smart; if they find a big reward and nothing bad happens, they’ll be back for more.


  1. Become A Morning Person: In neighborhoods where some people don’t secure their trash, the local bears often learn what night the trash goes out and show up for the midnight buffet. This makes a big mess for people to clean up. Even worse, it teaches bears they can rely on us for food. Be sure to store trash in a secure locked building or enclosure until the morning of pickup. Bear resistant trash containers can also be purchased to help keep bears out. Please check with your local garbage service on what options they may have or how to incorporate them with your current trash system.


  1. Spring Cleaning: Once the warmer weather hits and bears are more active, it’s a good idea to give your outdoor areas a thorough cleaning. Whether it’s your patio or your vehicle, there are important tips to remember when it comes to living with bears.
    1. PATIOS AND DECKS – Did you have winter cookouts or gather around the fire pit to roast hot dogs and marshmallows? Bits of food left on the grates or in the ashes are still appealing to a bear. After you clean up any scraps and trash, give your BBQ grill a good spring cleaning. Don’t forget to dump and clean the grease pan too! Check under decks and porches and make sure there’s nothing stashed down there you’ve forgotten about.
    2. PET FOOD – Pet food is full of calories and smells like dinner. Feed pets inside if possible. If you must feed pets outside, deep-clean the area, feed in single portions, and remove food and bowls after each feeding. Store pet food where bears can’t see, smell or reach it (on or under your deck, or inside your screened-in porch doesn’t count).
    3. BIRD FEEDERS – If you fed birds over the winter, stop putting out birdseed or other treats at the first sign that bears are active again. If you really want to keep birdfeeders up, switch to hull-less birdseed and bring feeders inside every evening. Additionally, as soon as you see any bear activity at your feeders, immediately take them down for at least 2-3 weeks before putting them back up and continue the process mentioned of bringing them in each evening. Regularly clean up around the feeder, and remember you can attract birds to your yard without using bird seed. Visit How to Attract Birds, Not Bears for more information.
    4. GARAGES AND SHEDS – Are you storing stuff in your garage and/or shed that could attract a bear? Secure or move pet food, birdseed, canned foods and beverages, and whatever could look or smell interesting to a bear using bear resistant containers and making sure garages and/or sheds are always kept securely closed when not in use. If you stored all your summer gear, empty and clean out back packs and bike bags. There’s probably at least one energy bar or scented lip balm buried in there. Lastly, motion sensor alarms can help scare bears away from specific locations when you’re not there and help deter bears from being tempted to break into garages or sheds.
    5. CARS AND TRUCKS – Bears can be attracted by something as innocuous as an empty candy bar wrapper or soda can. Bears can easily peel down a window that’s cracked open, or let themselves in to most unlocked vehicles but have a tough time letting themselves out. If you park vehicles outside, give them a good spring cleaning. Add a litter bag or small removable wastebasket that you can empty after each drive, and it will be a lot easier to keep vehicles clean and attractant-free. Fruity air fresheners attract bears; odorless or pine-scented ones are the safest bet.


For more information and smart solutions that help homeowners, businesses and communities coexist with bears, be sure to visit or the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s website.

Bear information courtesy of BearWise® |