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Mark and Rosemary Bamford had an unexpected and uninvited guest at their Bucksport home on Wednesday night.
The couple looked outside to see a hungry black bear chowing down on one of their bird feeders in the backyard.
“We see them occasionally,” said Mark Bamford, who also has a trail camera not far away in the woods near the couple’s house and captures a few photos of bears each year.
He knew the time to take in the feeders at night was fast approaching, given a couple of annual events that seem to coincide with the emergence of bears from their dens.
“Usually, it’s about the same time the lake [Long Pond] goes out or the Kenduskeag Stream race is held. It’s usually that time period when they start showing up,” Bamford said.
The ice went out earlier on Wednesday, confirming his theory.
“I usually take the bird feeders in every night, and I thought about doing it last night, but I said, well, I’ll wait one more night,” Bamford said.
The bear, which was enjoying its snack only 12 or 15 feet from the doorway, did not seem bothered by Bamford turning on the outside light and standing behind his sliding glass door.
“It was just calmly eating out of the bird feeder,” he said.
Finally, after the Bamfords engaged in some banging on their windows, the bear got up and headed back into the woods.
“As soon as it ran away, I went out with a metal can and I just banged on it and made a lot of noise, then I grabbed the feeder,” Mark Bamford said.
“That’s a good reason to take in any outside food,” he added.
Bamford recounted a time several years ago in which they came home in the late afternoon and found a bear sitting in the flower garden with a feeder in its lap with two cubs nearby.
“How many people get to see a bear that close up?” he asked.
On that occasion, they also made noise to scare away the bears, but the sow returned barely a half-hour later.
“It didn’t seem to be scared at all,” he said.
Moving forward, Bamford intends to retrieve the bird feeders and put them away to avoid any potential bear-related activity.
“It’ll be back looking in that area, but I’ll be bringing them in every night now,” he said.
The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife recommends that people take down bird feeders, store garbage cans inside a garage or building and store barbecue grills inside when they’re not in use to help prevent having bears come into their yards.
It also can be helpful to feed pets and livestock inside and to store their food behind closed doors.
For people who have beehives or poultry and who can’t store trash inside, a professionally installed electric fence also can be an effective deterrent to bears searching for a free meal.