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WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE     Print Version
NEWS RELEASE
600 Capitol Way North, Olympia, WA 98501-1091

ARCHIVED NEWS RELEASE
This document is provided for archival purposes only.
Archived documents do not reflect current WDFW regulations or policy and may contain factual inaccuracies.

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March 11, 2015
Contact: Rich Beausoleil, 509-664-3148 Ext. 11

Spring arrives early for hungry bears

OLYMPIA - Due to unseasonably warm weather, bears are on the move early this year, prompting state wildlife managers to remind the public about ways to avoid conflicts with black bears.

Rich Beausoleil, bear and cougar specialist for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), said the department has already received reports of black bear activity in King and Chelan counties and coastal areas.

"Black bears usually start making appearances in mid-to-late April, but warm weather can cause them to stir earlier," Beausoleil said. "Black bears are hungry when they emerge from their dens, because they lose up to half of their body weight during hibernation."

Natural foods are scarce this early in the year, so bears often start looking for the easiest source of high-protein food, he said.

Beausoleil strongly recommends that people take steps to avoid attracting black bears to their home, particularly in areas known for bear activity. That means securing garbage cans, removing backyard bird seed and not leaving pet food outdoors.

"By following these three steps to deter bears, we can reduce the number of bear-human conflicts significantly," he said.

WDFW police officers respond to hundreds of situations involving bears every year, ranging from raids on garbage cans and birdfeeders to confrontations with pets.

"Bears are naturally wary of humans, but they can overcome that fear when they are rewarded with food provided intentionally or unintentionally by people," he said. "Situations involving bears that have learned to associate food sources with people often end badly for the bear."

Two state laws prohibit leaving food or food waste in places where it can attract bears and other wild carnivores. Unintentionally or "negligently" feeding bears can bring a fine of $87 while the fine for intentional feeding can be as much as $1,000.

Human conflicts with bears tend to subside by mid-summer, when berries and other natural foods become available, and then pick up again in fall before the animals enter their dens, Beausoleil said.

Beausoleil advises taking the following steps to prevent conflicts with bears:

  • Never intentionally feed bears or other wild animals.
  • Keep garbage cans in a garage or another secure area until collection day.
  • Remove pet food from areas accessible to wildlife.
  • Take down birdfeeders until winter.
  • Thoroughly clean barbecue grills after each use.
  • When camping, thoroughly clean all cooking utensils after use and seal uneaten food in airtight containers that are stored in bear-proof canisters away from sleeping areas.

More information about how to avoid conflict with bears is available on WDFW's website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/living/bears.html.