Black Bears Still Active
Black Bears often enter into hibernation in November, but their exact timing depends in large part on the weather as well as the availability of food such as hard mast (acorns, beechnuts, etc.). Cold temperatures and scarce food hastens their entry, and warm weather and ample food delays it.
As long as bears are active (and they still are in the Northeast due in part to relatively warm weather), one would be wise to delay feeding birds. Even though a Black Bear’s metabolic rate during hibernation can drop to a quarter of its (nonhibernating) basal metabolic rate, it still needs to put on a considerable amount of fat (some bears double their weight) in order to sustain itself while it fasts through the winter.
A pre-hibernation feeding frenzy by Black Bears is why putting up bird feeders prematurely (before Black Bears hibernate) is discouraged by most northern Fish & Wildlife Departments. If a bear comes upon a filled bird feeder it is very likely to return to it repeatedly until it goes into hibernation. A Black Bear’s memory is very impressive and most are unable to resist a free lunch. If you can’t put off feeding the birds for another few weeks, it’s a good idea to bring feeders inside at night if you live in bear country.
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