In case you missed it, Gov. Peter Shumlin of Vermont admitted last week he was a little tardy in putting his bird feeders away. When he finally got around to it, four bears were actively snacking on his feeders.

When he tried to rescue his feeders, one bear chased him back inside. The governor said he barely slammed the door ahead of the hungry, angry bear. This occurred right in Montpelier, the capital.

It’s that time of the year again; bears are leaving their den and after fasting through the winter, are on the prowl looking for food.

With most of Maine still awakening to spring, there’s not much greenery for bears to eat, so food left by humans is an easy treat. Unfortunately it’s those easy snacks that get bears in trouble.

“In the spring, bears are losing weight fast as they become active,” says Randy Cross, a state biologist who has been studying bears in Maine for over 30 years.

“They’re thinking, ‘what’s the most calories to take in without putting any out?’ They come to a group of bird feeders and it’s like a cushy, bear resort with all the seed you want to eat. It sure beats digging roots. It’s 7,000 calories in one place.”

That search for calories can get bears into some unusual places.

Cross once removed a bear in downtown Bangor. It had set up shop underneath a bridge along the Kenduskeag River. Cross traveled with a game warden by boat and climbed the abutment to remove the bear while traffic roared overhead.

In northern Maine, Lt. Tom Ward, a 25-year game warden, said they handle dozens of nuisance bear calls each season. Last year there were more than 30 calls in Presque Isle alone.

Bears show up in some odd places at times.

“We had one bear in Woodland that went into a parked car through an open window in order to get some French fries,” said Ward.

“We had another bear that went into a pickup truck in order to eat what was left in an old McDonald’s bag.”

Another bear made its home in the rafters of a garage.

Major Gregg Sanborn patrolled portions of southern Maine early in his career, and still chuckles when discussing a nuisance bear complaint at the Maine Turnpike rest area in Kennebunk in the early 1990s.

“There were about 20 people all around a dumpster. You could hear something inside. I asked if anyone had actually seen a bear and they all said no,” recalled Sanborn. “Well, I flipped open the lid expecting to see a raccoon and was staring right at a bear.”

Sanborn wasn’t sure who was more startled.

The bear took off, dashing across all six lanes of traffic on the Maine Turnpike and miraculously escaping safely to the other side.

Wardens and biologists will try to trap and move nuisance bears, but sometimes with limited success.

Cross said bears will travel more than 50 miles to return to an area where they found food. Unfortunately, most of these returning bears have to be killed because they threaten people’s safety.

“When they become a public safety issue, the Warden Service gets involved. When we get involved, the facts are that many times the bears don’t live,” said Ward, who added that wardens just killed a nearly 400-pound bear in Presque Isle that had become too accustomed to trash, bird feeders and humans.

With the lack of spring rains, Cross wonders if this may be a busy year for nuisance bears.

“I’ve been getting worried about this summer’s potential to be another very bad nuisance year,” said Cross.

“The last bad one we had to endure was 17 years ago. It was a very dry spring and summer that hardened the vegetation that bears rely on after emerging from their den.”

When that happens, the plants become less digestible to bears, and they search for other types of food, usually human.

A dry summer also can translate into a poor wild berry crop, compounding the problem.

Of course, it may not become a problem; Cross said it could just as likely rain every day in May. But it’s still a good idea to keep your trash inside and don’t wait to bring in your bird feeders.

Just ask the governor of Vermont.

Mark Latti is a Registered Maine Guide, and the Landowner Relations/ Recreational Access Coordinator for the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.