Spring brings outdoor fun and bear activity
Spring is a busy time for wildlife; especially black bears as they emerge from their winter dens hungry and in search of calories after five months of not eating. During this time of increased activity, it is important for homeowners and hikers to secure un-natural food sources to reduce bear encounters.
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 40 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. People are often tempted to feed bears as they may appear sluggish and thin when they emerge from their dens. You should never attempt to provide food for black bears.
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, which can smell food from over a mile away.
Follow these tips to prevent attracting bears and to avoid negative bear interactions this spring:
· Never intentionally feed bears or other wild animals.
· Always keep garbage cans in a garage or a sturdy building until collection day.
· Take down seed and hummingbird feeders until next winter.
· Clean up fallen fruit or other possible attractants around your home.
· Remove pet food from wildlife-accessible areas, and feed 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
· Seal uneaten food and scented personal items, such as lotion or toothpaste, in airtight containers and store in bear-resistant canisters or food lockers at least 100 yards away from camping areas and encourage your neighboring campers to do the same.
WDFW officers and biologists 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.
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is the state agency tasked with preserving, protecting and perpetuating fish, wildlife and ecosystems, while providing sustainable fishing, hunting, and other recreation opportunities.