The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife cautions that like many Oregonians, black bears anxiously await the ripening of berry crops and the other tasty food sources that summer brings. In the absence of these awaited resources, bears often look elsewhere for food, and find camp kitchens, pet food bowls and garbage cans irresistible.
The result is an increase in bear activity near humans where outdoor food sources are prevalent. Outdoor recreationists need to be especially careful when camping, fishing, barbequing and engaging in other wilderness activities that involve food.
Biologists have found that many problem bears will concentrate in a small area when people unintentionally or intentionally feed bears with human food. People can take an active role in preventing potentially dangerous bear encounters by using common sense and good judgment when storing or disposing food and food waste while in forest areas and in their backyards. Pet foods also are an attractant and need to be treated in the same manner as human food when in the outdoors or residing in areas where bears may be found.
ODFW will not capture and relocate a bear habituated to humans.
"We really hate to put down a bear, but research shows that bears accustomed to finding food near human dwellings will become repeat offenders and that becomes a safety issue," said Don VandeBergh, ODFW wildlife biologist.
Removing a bear usually doesn't end the problem, VandeBergh noted. "If people don't change their behavior and continue to make food accessible, another bear often comes along, attracted to the same food source as the first bear," he said.
What can Oregonians do?
ODFW biologists suggest the following preventive measures:
Secure your garbage cans in a garage, shed or behind a fence (chain link or electric).
Clean cans regularly with bleach to cut odors.
Freeze garbage in bags and put the bags in the can just before garbage pick-up, not the night before.
Add mothballs or sprinkle bleach on household garbage in the can as a deterrent.
Take garbage with you when leaving your vacation home or ask a neighbor to put out the garbage for you just before pick-up.
Don't feed pets outside, but if you must feed outdoors, bring in the food at night.
Hang bird feeders from a wire eight feet off the ground and bring feeders inside in the evening.
also may help deter bears. Remove or eliminate anything that attracts bears. For example, pick fruit from trees and store it in a secure area. Talk to neighbors to encourage everyone to remove attractants. Let your local law enforcement or health departments know about unsanitary garbage problems in your neighborhood. Continue to assume bears are around if you live in an area where bears have been seen, even if no recent problems have surfaced.
Bears often pass through an area unnoticed and if they're not attracted to a food source they move on, according to VandeBergh. With interactions between bears and human populations increasing, people can play a responsible role in preventing problems or potential injuries. For more information on bears, callODFW at 800-720-6339, Ext. 76002 and request the brochure, "Living with Wildlife: Black Bear." The brochure also may be found on ODFW's Web site at (http://www.dfw.state.or.us/ODFWhtml/InfoCntrWild/blackbear3.pdf).