OUTDOORS: WDFW urges steps to avoid attracting bears

OLYMPIA — With black bears fattening up during the autumn for winter hibernation, residents in rural areas are being urged by the state to take precautions to avoid attracting bears.

“Be proactive to avoid attracting bears close to populated areas — it helps keep you and them out of harm’s way,” said Rich Beausoleil, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife statewide bear and cougar specialist. “Following … simple steps can prevent virtually all negative black bear interactions.”

People should follow these five tips to avoid negative bear interactions this fall:

Always store garbage cans in a garage or sturdy building until collection day. Bears are smart and opportunistic. If a garbage can is left out, they’ll find it. Put garbage out the morning of collection, not the night before.

Remove bird feeders (seed and liquid) from porches, trees, and other accessible areas and feed pets inside. These feeders can inadvertently become easy, high-calorie attractants for bears. If they find it, they may come back.

Pick and remove fruit from trees, even the highest branches. Bears love fruit and may climb trees to get it, possibly damaging valuable branches. Also remove fallen fruit.

Don’t intentionally feed bears, deer, elk or other wild animals. Bears have great memories, so once they find food, they’ll likely return and associate food with people. Anything a deer or elk will eat, a bear will eat too. Once bears learn to connect people with food, they will likely return and that increases the risk of a negative interaction.

Confine chickens, and their feed, in secured and covered enclosures or barns. Electric fencing is highly recommended for all chicken enclosures.

WDFW staff are asking homeowners to take initiative even before spotting a bear near their home. If people wait until they see a bear, it may be too late to prevent a negative outcome. Taking these steps before a situation occurs is the best way to prevent risk to you and the bear.

A bear’s natural diet consists of natural foods such as blueberries or huckleberries. Access to unnatural, high-calorie foods, such as garbage, birdseed and hummingbird feeders may delay a bear’s natural hibernation patterns. This is another important reason to remove such items during the fall, according to the WDFW.

Those who have tried the recommendations listed above but are still experiencing bear encounters should call 360-902-2936 to report concerns to WDFW enforcement. In an emergency, people should call 9-1-1.

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