Tips to coexist with bears this spring
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 high-protein food, which may include bird feeders, pet food, and garbage.
Bears are naturally wary of humans but can overcome their fear when people reward them with high calorie food sources– this may be intentional or unintentional.
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.
The trick is to not make a human source of food easier for a bear to get than what nature provides — especially food that is high in fat and calories — such as hummingbird food.
Please help keep bears wild by removing these food items. By failing to prepare for a possible visit, you trick bears into thinking that people are harmless. In truth, it’s incredibly dangerous for bears if they begin to check out our homes and communities to see what’s on the menu. So please do your part to protect your neighbors and help keep bears wild.
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;
· Scrub you and your children after eating (hands, face, and clothing — especially if they are messy as our families are!);
· Wash all cooking utensils; and
· Seal uneaten food in airtight containers that are stored in bear-proof canisters or food lockers at least 100 yards away from camping areas.
WDFW officers 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. Feeding bears, intentionally or unintentionally, can bring a fine of $87, while the fine for intentional feeding can be as much as $1,000.
People can find more information about how to avoid conflict with bears at wdfw.wa.gov/species-habitats/species/ursus-americanus. Please contact your regional office at wdfw.wa.gov/about/regional-offices if you have questions regarding living with bears.
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.