INTERLOCHEN — Paula Dreeszen knows it’s springtime when her bird feeders turn into bear feeders.
Black bear sightings aren’t unheard of in Dreeszen’s secluded Interlochen neighborhood. Several residents called Grand Traverse County’s dispatchers one evening this week and reported a bear not quite skulking around the Melody Lane and Tenor Drive environs.
Dreeszen believes this same bear yanked down her bird feeders and scarfed their sunflower seeds and peanuts.
“Luckily, it didn’t destroy the feeders,” she said.
Katie Keen, a wildlife technician at the Michigan Department of Natural Resource’s Cadillac office, said dozing black bears burn through fat in the winter and wake up hungry in the spring.
“They’re looking for the quickest, easiest source of food,” she said.
This means that bird feeders, outdoor pet food, garbage bags and even barbecue grills can offer welcome snacks for bears. Keen said they often return to the same easy pickings year-after-year.
“The things about bears is they can remember,” she said. “If they got a meal last spring, they’ll remember it.”
Dreeszen said she’ll put away her feeders for a couple of weeks, but she’s not afraid. Black bears seem more like scaredy cats than vicious man eaters.
“The year that we did see the bear, we opened up the door and hollered and the bear took off,” she said.
Keen said making noise is exactly what homeowners and hikers should do when they encounter a wandering bear. She said air horns, car alarms and other noises might make bears rethink their jaunts into yards for free bird seed and scraps.
“You just want to make noise and not be a peaceful situation,” she said.
Jason Torrey, deputy director for Grand Traverse 911, said Interlochen’s recent bear sightings didn’t require a law enforcement dispatch. He said people should just be mindful.
“We have more bears than people realize,” he said.
People interested in learning more about black bear behavior and avoiding spring encounters can watch a DNR video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y6c1c3qw7dg.