More and more bears, moose and deer are getting closer to Bay State residents’ homes this summer as the thirsty animals desperately search for water amid the extreme drought, according to wildlife experts.
Over the last month, in particular, Massachusetts wildlife officials have received an uptick of reports about moose at the edge of peoples’ backyard pools.
“When there’s a drought like this, it concentrates animals to limited water sources, and backyard pools can be a good resource for water,” said Martin Feehan, state deer and moose biologist with the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife.
“We’ve received quite a few calls about moose coming up to peoples’ pools,” he added. “Every summer, we’ll have some contacts like that, but it’s definitely very unique this year with one of the worst droughts our state has experienced.”
Wild animals are also being drawn to residential areas to search for food. The drought has impacted the supply of wild vegetation, so both moose and deer are chomping on peoples’ plantings more than usual.
Bears rely on summer berries, which have been affected by the significant drought. As a result, bears are searching for food in residential areas more often than during a normal year, eating from bird feeders and chicken coops.
“We’ve received reports of more bear conflicts this summer than normal,” Feehan said. “The primary draw-in for bears is bird feeders, which are very problematic.
“We always recommend that residents get bird feeders off their landscape,” he added. “Backyard chicken coops are also a very easy food source for bears, so it’s important for residents to set up electrical fencing.”
Just last week, a black bear that was spotted attacking chickens in a North Reading neighborhood was captured, tagged and relocated to the woods.
The drought has been brutal for farmers, and it has gotten even worse because bears and deer are eating the farmers’ limited crops.
“Farms are getting hit hard by the drought, and then wildlife are coming in and eating their crops,” Feehan said.
Residents have been setting up water drinking sites for deer in their backyards to help out the thirsty wildlife, which is actually a “disturbing trend” because unnatural water sources are a major concern for disease transmission, according to Feehan.
Epizootic hemorrhagic disease can be up to 90% fatal in deer, and it’s spread by biting midges. Those standing pockets of water in backyards are a breeding habitat for midges.
“A disturbing trend has popped up where more people are putting out water sources in their backyards,” Feehan said. “We don’t recommend residents do that.”