MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — Wildlife officials recommend that Vermonters take down their bird feeders by April 1 to avoid attracting bears.

Warm weather and melting snows will drive bears to come out of their winter dens in search of food, the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department said.

"Bears are very fond of suet and bird seed, especially black oil sunflower seed, which they can smell from a long distance," said Vermont bear biologist Forrest Hammond in a statement. "Bringing feeders in at night doesn't work, because bears will still feed on seed that is spilled on the ground."

Pet food, barbecue grills, garbage, household trash containers, open dumpsters, campsites with accessible food, and food wastes, can also attract bears, the department said.

Purposely feeding bears is illegal, dangerous, bad for bears and causes problems for neighbors, the department said.

The department recommends keeping chickens and honeybees secured within an electric fence or bear-proof enclosure; feeding pets indoors; storing trash in a secure place; and learning how to compost without causing odors that attract wildlife.

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