Bears are emerging from dens: tips to reduce and prevent conflicts

Black bears have begun to emerge from their winter dens hungry and are in search of calories after five months of not eating. During this time of increased activity, we’re asking for your help to secure un-natural food sources to reduce bear encounters — especially around your home or while on the trail.

Bears taking from bird feeder

Black bears typically den from late October to early April and are hungry when they emerge from their dens. During hibernation bears may lose up to 30 percent of their body weight as females also give birth to their offspring while they are in their dens.

When they emerge, natural foods may be scarce, and bears often look for the easiest source of food, which may include garbage, bird feeders, and fruit trees. We know people can be tempted to feed bears as they may appear sluggish and thin when they emerge from their dens, or tolerate them feeding on grasses and plants near dwellings, but you should never attempt to provide food for black bears or allow them to be comfortable around people.

Bears are naturally wary of humans but can overcome their fear when people reward them with high calorie food sources–intentionally or unintentionally. Now that spring is upon us, please take a moment to survey the outside of your home and remove these potential food sources to avoid attracting bears.

Did you know they can smell food from over a mile away? If you see a bear on your property, please clap your hands loudly and shoo it away.

Follow these tips to prevent attracting bears and to avoid negative bear interactions this spring:

· Never intentionally feed bears or other wildlife.

· Always keep garbage cans in a garage or a sturdy building until collection day.

· Take down seed, suet, and hummingbird feeders until fall.

· Clean up fallen fruit or other possible attractants around your home.

· Remove pet food from wildlife-accessible areas and feed your pets inside.

· Thoroughly clean barbecue grills after each use and store them in a secure building.

· Cage and electric fence your domestic fowl and livestock pens.

· Avoid storing food in your car.

· When camping, thoroughly:

· Clean all spilled food;

· Wash up after eating (you and your children’s hands, face, and clothing — especially if they are messy as our families are!);

· Wash all cooking utensils; and

· Keep all attractants at least 100 yards away from camping areas. If that isn’t possible, seal uneaten food and scented personal items, such as lotion or toothpaste, in airtight containers and store in bear-resistant canisters or food lockers and encourage your neighboring campers to do the same. You can find bear-resistant canisters at local sports stores.

We respond to a variety of situations involving bears every year, and most are due to human-provided attractants which are entirely preventable. Two state laws prohibit leaving food or food waste in places where it can attract bears and other wild carnivores. For more information on black bears in Washington, please visit the WDFW website and learn how you can do your part to keep bears wild.

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The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife

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The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is dedicated to preserving, protecting and perpetuating the state’s fish and wildlife resources.