To suburbanites, it's garbage, but to bears, it's gourmet cusine. Now that the drought has dried up their food and water in the forests, bears are moving to the suburbs.
"We were having dinner up in our dining room right here and the bear came up our back stairs right onto our back porch," Catherine Freer told CBS News Correspondent Jacqueline Adams.
In Highland, N.Y., no one was home when a bear feasted on Freer's bird feeders. She took photos of the damage to show her friends, never thinking the beast would come back for seconds.
"When I opened the door, he just looked at me, like, 'Please get out of my way, lady. I just want to eat my birdseed,'" she said.
For the first time, Freer is seeing bears and coyotes in her yard along with deer and foxes. They all are looking for food.
Indeed, in pockets throughout the Mid-Atlantic region, bear sightings are on the rise. Game commissioners say part of the reason is a bear population boom, but the drought is also to blame.
In New York's lower Adirondack Mountains, the woods are normally lush and green, what big game biologist Dick Henry calls "a bear and deer buffet." The drought, however, has withered the plants, emptied the acorns and left the berries hard and dry.
If a bear can't eat the blueberries, what is he going to eat?
"He has to beg for food and thatÂ's where he winds up in somebody's back yard," Henry said.
In a normal year, the local office of the Department of Environmental Conservation gets about 100 complaints about bears. But already this year the number has topped 200 and that's before the bears begin trying to fatten up for the winter.
"Bears eat to live and live to eat, and at this point in time, they're going to be really hard pressed to find natural foods," Henry said.
He worries the drought could kill some of New York's 5,000 bears. They're at risk, he said, of being shot to death or hit by cars as long as hunger keeps them in the suburbs.
To read about one New Jersey man's bear encounter, click here.
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