With archery season about to begin, game wardens from the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation are warning residents that deer feeders are also popular with bears, and offer tips for avoiding attracting bigger animals.
“What I’m calling them now is wildlife feeders because they feed all kinds of wildlife and that’s not just deer,” said northeast region wildlife supervisor, Craig Endicott.
“We’re already getting calls about bears on feeders this season. That’s how a lot of nuisance bear problems start. They get on a food source and they lose their fear of people. Then they start looking around the house for other things to eat.”
Bird feeders are also common bear attractants.
The warning comes as reports of bear sightings are on the increase in Oklahoma. The Department recently posted a map on their Facebook page showing hot spots of black bear activity across the state.
The post garnered a huge response, with many readers posting photos of black bear activity on their properties. The Department has also posted information on designs for deer feeders that discourage bears and reduce the likelihood of bears destroying feeding equipment.
They also reminded residents that shooting at or killing a bear outside of bear hunting season and without the relevant licence is prohibited.
The difficulty in “bear proofing” feeders has resulted in many people switching to either mineral blocks or food plots instead, however game wardens suggest that solving the problem can be as a simple as removing or emptying the feeder until the bear moves on.
Several residents do persist and come up with ingenious designs. Jack DeLaughter is a rancher who uses deer feeders on his property close to the Arkansas border.
“I’ve lost $400 in corn feeders already this year,” he said. Of the “bear-proof” feeder designs, he says: “I think they took most of those ideas from me! They work … up to a point.”
The bear issue is one that has been on the Department of Wildlife Conservation’s radar for some time, and it’s unlikely to go away any time soon, with the species expanding it’s range westward.
On their Facebook page, the Department quoted Nels Rodefeld, chief of the information and education division, saying: “Bears are coming to a location near you. For anyone in Oklahoma who is east of Interstate 35, the potential is there to see a black bear.”