Bears and birdfeeders – a recipe for conflict

Many homeowners enjoy feeding birds but in bear country the practice often comes with unintended consequences, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

Wildlife managers and conservation officers know that the majority of bear-related calls involve bears destroying birdfeeders after homeowners underestimate how attractive bears find birdfeeders as a food source. 

“Bears use a feeding strategy called ‘high-grading’ where they seek out rich patches of concentrated food, and skip over places with low food density,” said Dave Garshelis, DNR bear research project leader. “They also have excellent memories about where they’ve found good sources of food. A birdfeeder is a bountiful source of high-calorie food.”

All about the calories

A well-stocked birdfeeder could supply more than 10,000 calories in one place with little effort. Compared to the energy it would take to obtain the same number of calories from scattered patches of wild berries, nuts or insects, bears find it much more efficient to feed at a birdfeeder, especially if the food there is continually replenished. 

In late summer, bears transition into a state of rapid weight gain that prepares them for six months of hibernation. During this time bears’ caloric needs increase and they can gain three to five pounds of body fat every day, a feeding pattern they continue until shrinking day length and disappearing foods signals them to begin hibernating.

“If a bear found an easy meal at your birdfeeder or trash can, chances are it will remember how to find your yard again. And you can plan on that bear and possibly others coming back,” Garshelis said.

One bear could mean several bears

Bears have an innate preference for wild foods, but if frequently rewarded with highly-concentrated human foods, they may grow to prefer that, and then seek out such foods. Mothers then pass this feeding behavior on to their offspring. In a controlled feeding trial, researchers observed that most bears chose black oil sunflower seeds above acorns once they had the chance to try them.

Bears so conditioned sometimes become very bold. Some have been known to open unlocked car doors, enter open windows and patio doors of homes, push through screen doors, enter livestock pens, raid gardens and stir compost piles – anywhere food is left unattended and unsecured. Such bears become hard to scare away, because they are not only intent on getting the human-related foods, they have experienced no negative consequences from being near people. When behavior escalates to this point, people often become fearful of bears and perceive them as a safety threat.

The DNR does not trap and relocate bears because it is nearly impossible to find a release site in Minnesota where a food-conditioned, traveling bear wouldn’t find another house to frequent. Relocating a bear can also put it in conflict with other resident bears, or disrupt its ability to find natural food sources in a new location. The DNR discontinued the practice of trapping and relocating bears in 1999, and relies instead on the public removing attractants.

Avoid creating a problem

DNR wildlife managers and conservation officers recorded 700 to 900 bear complaints per year by the public in each of the past three years – a slight increase over the past decade. Homeowners most commonly reported damage to birdfeeders and trash cans, and an associated fear of bears being too close to their house.

Homeowners are advised to remove the source of the attractant to solve the problem. For example, the solution might be as easy as taking in birdfeeders in the late afternoon. In most cases, removing the food source removes the problem but it may take the bear a few days to leave the area. This is a simple solution, requiring a slight modification in human behavior in order to change the bear’s behavior, or better yet, to prevent a bear from becoming food conditioned in the first place, and possibly saving its life.

Homeowners can sometimes become frustrated with that simplistic advice and perceive it as a lack of action on the part of wildlife staff. But with relocation not an option, the remaining option is killing the animal – a result wildlife managers and most of the public prefer to avoid.

The DNR offers practical tips about avoiding bear conflicts at home and while camping at  

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4 Common Retirement Mistakes
And How To Avoid Them

Constructing a smart retirement income plan isn’t easy. Throughout the working years there are many factors to consider, such as salary, expenses – monthly and unforeseen – debt and college for the kids, just to name a few.

All of those can affect a person’s ability to, first, devise a consistent plan for their retirement goals, and secondly, accumulate the necessary capital to provide ample retirement income. hieve them. Meanwhile, costly mistakes can be made that will have implications down the road.

“A retirement strategy has many moving parts, and each can have a significant impact on the others,” says Jadon Newman, CEO of Noble Capital (, a financial advisory firm. “Many people often make the same mistakes.

“There are ways to avoid them, and much of it is about knowledge. There’s more you need to know about retirement today than you did 20 or 30 years ago. It starts with knowing what lifestyle you want to achieve in retirement and the options that will both protect you and enhance what should be the best years of your life.”

Newman gives four common mistakes in retirement planning and how to avoid them:

•    Investing like you’re still young. Earlier in their working careers, people often have a higher risk tolerance. But approaching retirement, Newman says, your investment strategy should shift toward preserving capital. “Phase out those investments that are subject to wider fluctuations,” Newman says. “The gradual move away from riskier investments should begin as you enter your mid- to late 40s.”

•    Leaving your nest egg vulnerable to big market drops. Putting your entire nest egg in one basket could be disastrous. “Having an excessive amount of market risk in your portfolio, you could find yourself suffering a loss that you won’t have time to recover from before you retire,” Newman says. “With stocks having surged for an extended period, beware the bear market. It would be wise to purge some risk from your portfolio in favor of more predictable methods of capital growth and income, such as annuities, life insurance policies, or alternative investments like private lending and real estate.”

•    Not satisfying basic income needs. It has become less realistic for a 401(k) coupled with Social Security to provide the regular income needed for retirement. It’s important to estimate what yearly expenses will be in retirement and diversify accordingly. “Use your investments, insurance policies or retirement accounts to provide multiple income streams,” Newman says. “This allows you to draw from them only what you need to meet your pre-determined budget. Be sure you calculate your Social Security payment and any required minimum distributions so you don’t incur additional tax liability.”

•    Having the wrong kind of annuity. A crucial component of a comfortable retirement is reliable income, and a common way to achieve that is by using annuities. Unfortunately, some retirees find themselves with an annuity that doesn’t fit their needs. A fixed annuity pays out a guaranteed rate of return, providing less risk compared to variable annuities, but the tradeoff is you get a more modest return. “Sometimes a fixed index annuity (FIA) is the best bet,” Newman says. “These allow you to protect your principal by shifting the risk to the insurance company selling you the annuity. There are caps on your potential returns, but FIAs are more reliable because they mitigate risk.”

“With retirement planning, the end goal should be not only to ensure you’ll have enough income to satisfy your retirement budget, but also to provide you with enough to truly enjoy your retirement,” Newman says. “Because life goals and the economic climate are subject to change, you need to consult with your financial adviser annually to optimize your strategy.”

About Jadon Newman
Jadon Newman is the founder and CEO of Noble Capital ( With more than 16 years of experience in the financial services industry, he specializes in retirement planning, real estate investment and asset management. Newman has earned a CCIM designation and CSA credential in addition to an insurance license in the state of Texas.

Families Still Face Discrimination in Mental Health Care 
By Sue Abderholden

This year, just a few days prior to Mental Illness Awareness Week, we celebrate the ten-year anniversary of the passage of the Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act, which was signed into law on October 3, 2008.  It is a momentous law, promising an end to discriminatory coverage of mental health treatment thus providing hope to millions of people who struggle to access appropriate mental health treatment.  

Prior to passage of parity many people had higher co-payments for mental health treatment, limits on the number of therapy visits that were not based on need, limited drug formularies and other barriers to care such as limited networks, lack of coverage for new treatment or even basic treatment. Families went into debt in order to ensure a loved one was able to access much needed treatment. The parity law tried to address these issues.

Parity seeks to treat mental health care the same as other health care conditions in three areas: out-of-pocket costs, arbitrary treatment limits and what is called non-quantitative treatment limits – using similar processes for determining medical necessity, use of provider networks, fail first policies, etc.

During Mental Illness Awareness Week we typically focus on public attitudes – seeking to eliminate negative stereotypes and promote acceptance – but not this year. After ten years we have yet to realize the promise of mental health parity.  

Families continue to struggle especially with non-quantitative treatment limits.  Rehab is often covered on the health care side – but not the mental health side. In-home treatment for seriously ill children is covered – but not if the serious illness is a mental illness. Networks of providers are often more limited for mental health, and new mental health treatments – even when approved by the FDA – are not covered.

Changing attitudes is important, ending discrimination even more so.

Most people don’t know whom to call when they find their health insurance plan won’t cover needed mental health treatment or can’t find a provider in their network. It’s complicated since it depends on what type of plan it is. The MN Department of Commerce has a “no wrong door” policy so people are encouraged to call them at 651-539-1600.

But people shouldn’t have to file a complaint to enforce parity. Parity should be enforced upfront by the Departments of Health and Commerce. Legislation to enforce the parity law in Minnesota was introduced in 2017 and had hearings in 2018. Unfortunately it didn’t pass.

The Kennedy-Satcher Center for Mental Health Equity recently found that Minnesota’s statutes on parity received 51 out of 100 points, thus receiving an “F” grade. The states with the highest grades on how their statutes implement parity included Illinois, Tennessee, Maine, Alabama, Virginia and New Hampshire. The report can be found at

We cannot build our mental health system if private health insurance continues to treat mental illnesses differently.  It’s time to focus on parity as a human rights issue and ensure access to appropriate treatment. During this year’s Mental Illness Awareness Week, let’s all become more aware of mental health parity and lack of enforcement and let candidates and current Senators know that this needs to change during the 2019 session. 

Sue Abderholden is the executive director of NAMI Minnesota (National Alliance on Mental Illness), a non-profit organization working to improve the lives of children and adults with mental illnesses and their families.

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