GEARHART - Three black bears paid a visit to an unoccupied home in Gearhart last week.

The bears were reported rummaging through a shed in the 700 block of McCormick Gardens Road in Gearhart. Gearhart Police stood by to keep spectators away. The bears ran into the woods after a siren was activated.

Black bears spend the winter in torpor, or winter sleep, according to Herman Biederbeck, a wildlife biologist with the North Coast watershed district of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. It's not a true hibernation, because they get up several times during the winter.

"Bears are starting to become active right now, because it's spring," Biederbeck said. "They're getting out of their dens and are very hungry. They'll be looking for a source of food until berries start to ripen."

Bears may focus on food provided inadvertently by man, including garbage and compost piles. Bears may also eat pet food or suet in bird feeders.

Biederbeck offers these tips to help prevent human-animal interaction:

• Keep garbage secured in a shed or garage until the day it is picked up. If a bear forages on garbage repeatedly, it is very difficult for it to break the habit.

• Do not leave pet food outside.

• If possible, keep all pets, especially small ones, inside.

• Do not feed deer or raccoons. These make your yard another source of savory prey.

• If you live near a forested area, do not plant lots of bushes and shrubs. This gives animals additional cover.

• Never approach an animal.

• Report all sightings of bears in a residential or commercial area to the local Police Department or the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, 338-0106 or 842-2741.