Bears are fond of bird feeders, and bird feeders can create nuisance bears. Sometimes, nuisance bears end up dead.
That’s the line of thinking that led to a new program cooked up by Bear Smart Durango, the Durango Botanical Society, AJ’s Greenhouse and other interested parties. Beginning May 2 at AJ’s, which is in Grandview, you can bring your bird feeder and exchange it for a free hanging flower basket. Exchanges will be held for four Saturdays in May.
The flowers in the baskets are designed to attract hummingbirds but not bears, said Bryan Peterson, founder and director of Bear Smart Durango, which advocates for solutions to help bears and people co-exist. Although these flower baskets won’t attract all birds, there are other plants to attract various birds, he said.
“There is another way to have birds around without attracting bears and wildlife,” Peterson said of the flower baskets. “Another goal is to just get people thinking about this.”
Peterson said that of the six local reports of bear incidents in 2015, four have involved bird feeders. In addition to hummingbird feeders, people often use suet and sunflower seeds to attract birds. Peterson said that a 7-pound tube of black oil sunflower seeds contains 12,000 calories.
“Bears know what bird feeders are,” Peterson said. “They quickly learn what these things are and seek them out.”
And once bears figure out that bird feeders are near homes, that causes a related problem.
“It teaches bears to come right up to people’s homes,” he said. They climb up on decks, look in windows and hang out in yards.
Having bears in people country has proved fatal to many bears. In a five-year period from 2009-13, Colorado Parks and Wildlife reported 200 bears had died in nonhunting-related human causes in the area around Durango. Of those, 105 were killed by vehicles, and 95 were “nuisance” bears.
Peterson said he noticed a group in Kalispell, in northwest Montana, had come up with a similar program, and he called them for more information.
The bird feeders to be exchanged should be in relatively good shape, so they can be repurposed by AJ’s Greenhouse into hanging flower baskets, Peterson said. He emphasized that the program will continue only while supplies last, and they’re starting off with 50 available flower baskets.
The Foundation for the Protection of Animals, Jane Pedersen and Bob Kuhnert have all donated to make the program possible, Peterson said.