As hungry bears wake up from their long winter's sleep, Mainers want to take precautions to avoid attracting them onto their property.

My husband and I live in the woods in Orrington, and every Spring hear reports of bear sightings near our house. So far (knock wood), we haven't found one in our yard. Maybe it's because our dog's scent keeps them away. Or maybe it's because we do some things to avoid having too many delectable scents that will attract the bears. Or maybe we've just been lucky.

I've chatted several times with bear biologist Jen Vachon, who has shared some valuable tips, including what to do if a bear does come into your yard. She advises not running, first of all. Stay still, or move slowly, without ever turning your back on the bear. And, if you want to scare him away, make yourself as large as possible and make a LOT of noise. Bears hate that.

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To avoid attracting them in the first place, take in bird feeders at night. And, if some of the bird seed has fallen on the ground, rake it up each night, as well. Bird seed is one of their favorites Spring treats, so it's best to remove it when they're the most active.

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Trash cans should be tightly covered and, preferably, stored inside. If you can keep the cans in the shed or garage, bears will be less apt to smell them. And when putting your trash out for collection, wait until the collection day to set it by the curb, rather than putting it out the night before.

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Everyone wants to break out the barbecue grill and cook up some delicious food this time of year, but that greasy grill will pull in bears, as well as your friends and family. Grills should be thoroughly cleaned after use and stored in the shed or garage, if at all possible.

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Pet and livestock food should also be kept in the house or garage, rather than setting out a dish. While your pup my like having a bowl of kibble to munch on while outside, that same treat will be like a trip to a restaurant for a bear. In addition, small livestock, like chickens and goats, should be kept behind a fence or in a secure building at night.

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Finally, it's important to make sure all doors are tightly secured. A garage door, carelessly left open, could mean a scary and dangerous surprise the next time you walk into it. A cornered bear is a very dangerous bear, so avoid finding yourself standing between the bear and the door.