AUGUSTA

Homeowners urged to take steps to deter hungry bears

This spring, the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife is encouraging homeowners to take steps to deter bears that could become a nuisance or danger.

Bears recently have emerged from their dens throughout Maine and are in search of food. They are drawn to bird feeders, garbage cans, dumpsters and grills — places where food or the odor of food is prevalent — and to areas where people believe it’s OK to leave food for them.

Here are some tips:

Bring in bird feeders at night and rake up seed that has fallen underneath the bird feeder.

Store garbage and garbage cans in the garage or basement until trash day, and put out the cans the mornings of pickup.

Nothing with a strong food odor should be composted in the back yard.

For grills, burn off as much of the meat and grease as possible and then brush or scrape grills clean. Grills should be stored in a closed garage or shed.

Use dumpsters with heavy metal lids that latch shut. Keep the lids and self-closing doors shut. If garbage is overflowing, contact the trash hauler to pick it up.

If you have pets and feed them outdoors, bring their food dishes inside at night.

Store all livestock feeds in a secure location.

Encourage your neighbors to take the same steps that you are to deter bears.

When camping, put food and other items with an odor, including candy, toothpaste, suntan lotion and soap, in sealed containers.

AUGUSTA

More than 1,600 students meet WinterKids Challenge

As part of the first WinterKids Challenge, students and teachers at 11 Maine schools proved this winter that active learning is not only fun, it’s effective and healthy, too.

One of the best Maine winters in recent memory set the stage perfectly for this exciting pilot program, which encourages active outdoor education during our longest, most sedentary season. By accepting the WinterKids Challenge, 85 teachers in schools throughout the state agreed to take their students outside for at least three active lessons over the course of the winter. The goal? Get healthy, get fit and make learning fun. More than 1,600 Maine students successfully completed the challenge this year.

WinterKids congratulates the following schools for completing the 2010-2011 WinterKids Challenge: Hussey Elementary in Augusta; Helen Thompson School in West Gardiner; Albert S. Hall School in Waterville; Bloomfield Elementary in Skowhegan; Mill Stream Elementary in Norridgewock; North Elementary in Skowhegan; East End Community School in Portland; Ocean Avenue School in Portland; Skillin School in South Portland; Martel Elementary in Lewiston; and Park Avenue Elementary in Auburn.

WinterKids is a nonprofit organization that helps children develop healthy habits through fun outdoor winter activity. For more information, visit www.winterkids.org.

CARRABASSETT VALLEY

Full- and self-service huts ready for hikers, anglers

Maine Huts & Trails’ Grand Falls Hut is now open and ready to accommodate and feed hungry anglers and spring hikers.

The Poplar Stream Falls and Flagstaff Lake huts are still in caretaker mode and are scheduled to offer full service on June 17. Until then, you can pick either a full- or self-service hut. Either way, reservations are required. Call (877) 265-2400 or make your reservation online at www.mainehuts.org/lodging/book-your-adventure.

AUGUSTA

Boaters urged to always remember a life jacket

As boating season nears, the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife reminds boaters to wear personal flotation devices, or life jackets.

“At this time of year, it’s almost a necessity,” said Sgt. Ron Dunham of the Maine Warden Service. “It’s like putting your seat belt on in your vehicle. It’s the only safety device you have at your disposal. People need to take advantage of that. It’s serious business. It’s life and death when you’re in the water.”

If someone is exposed to cold water for too long, shock, loss of limb dexterity, incapacitation and hypothermia can occur.

“Every time you go out without a PFD, you’re gambling with your life,” Dunham said.

AUBURN

Annual report on health of Maine’s lakes available

Has your favorite Maine lake had a checkup recently? Do you know if it is routinely monitored for changes in water quality and invasive species? How is its current health? How vulnerable is your lake to existing threats? If you don’t know the answers to these questions, contact the Maine Volunteer Lake Monitoring Program at 783-7733 or [email protected] to request a copy of its 2010 Maine Lakes Report.

This annual report provides the most comprehensive documentation available on the health of Maine lakes and highlights the efforts of hundreds of volunteer lake monitors throughout Maine who collect scientific data on more than 450 bodies of water. In addition to extensive background information on lake and watershed ecology, the report provides individual data summaries for lakes throughout the state of Maine.

The Maine Volunteer Lake Monitoring Program, formed in 1971 is the longest standing, and one of the largest citizen lake monitoring programs in the U.S. The VLMP is the largest provider of lake data in the State of Maine. The nonprofit organization provides training, equipment and technical support to volunteers throughout Maine at no cost.

The 2010 Maine Lakes Report can be viewed online at the VLMP website: www.mainevolunteerlakemonitors.org/publications.