Feed the Birds, Not the Bears: Here’s How

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One of the easiest and most popular ways to attract birds to your garden is also a great way to see larger, less-appreciated wildlife: black bears.

“It’s important to keep in mind that birdseed can accidentally attract bears and other wildlife,” according to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. “Bird feeders provide a convenient, but dangerous, meal for bears. Allowing them to eat from human-supplied food sources such as feeders, garbage, or outdoor pet food teaches them bad behavior, which often leads to bear removal.

In extreme circumstances, bears have been euthanized.

RELATED: 500-pound bear euthanized after wandering Traverse City neighborhoods for months

MNR is discouraging residents from using bird feeders this spring in favor of incorporating native plants that will provide food for migrating birds. These stages are especially important in the Upper Peninsula and northern Lower Peninsula where bears are more prevalent.

“Planting native species will provide birds with adequate food, water and shelter to enable them to make it through the next leg of their migratory journeys without attracting bears,” the DNR said in a press release.

Birds eat berries and fruits, nectar, nuts and seeds, and insects like caterpillars. Native plants can provide all of this, according to the DNR. The caterpillars are best supported by trees and shrubs such as oak, willow, and black cranberry. Wild columbine is an early spring bloomer that can provide nectar for Michigan’s smallest migrant, the ruby-throated hummingbird.

For more ideas on which native plant species will best support birds, visit Audobon’s Plants for birds database and enter your postal code.

As Mary Poppins said, “Come feed the little birds, show them you care. And you will be happy if you do.

But the DNR hopes you’ll avoid using a bag of crumbs — or birdseed.

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