Black bear on the move
September 18, 2012
In preparation for denning, Idaho’s black bears
are on the move, looking for any and all food
sources that might help them gain weight.
High calorie human foods are a major attractant,
particularly if they are easy to obtain. With
that in mind, Fish and Game officials are urging
hunters and other outdoor recreationists,
together with homeowners who live in more rural
settings, to use common sense and be “bear
“Statewide drought and another prolonged fire
season have resulted in the loss of natural bear
foods in many areas,” Fish and Game conservation
officer Matt O’Connell said. “As such, we’ve
seen an uptick in the number of bear sightings
in and around rural residential areas and other
places where human foods are present, such as
A cooler full of groceries left on a picnic
table, unsecured garbage at a residence, dog
food outside, low-hanging bird feeders, or food
stored in a hunting camp wall tent are
attractive, easy marks for a hungry bear.
“All bears are opportunists; their whole life
revolves around food,” Fish and Game
conservation educator Evin Oneale said. “They
remember every single location where they
receive a food reward, and if they get one from
your camp or residence, they will be back for
That spells trouble for everyone, particularly
“The pattern is always the same,” O’Connell
said. “A food reward only encourages the bear to
return, where it becomes more bold and
aggressive as it searches out additional food.
The situation can quickly deteriorate into an
issue of human safety.”
“The old adage, ‘A fed bear is a dead bear,’
isn’t just a catchy slogan, it’s reality,” he
said. “You can’t relocate a bear that has
learned bad habits; it will only cause the same
trouble in its new location. So too often,
because of irresponsible human behavior, it is
the bear that pays the price with its life.”
The good news is this sad scenario is completely
“Common sense in bear country is really all
that’s needed,” O’Connell said. “Securing food,
garbage and anything else that a bear might
consider food is the answer. If a bear does not
receive a food reward, it will move on.”
Homeowners, campers and hunters can help keep
bears wild and avoid costly property damage
themselves by taking some simple precautions:
- Keep pet food secured as you do your own, and
not in a bowl outdoors. Bears like pet food as
much as your dog or cat.
- Avoid filling bird feeders until wintertime.
- Keep garbage in a secure location and place it
at the curb only on the morning of pick up.
- When selecting a campsite, look for recent
signs of bear activity. If you see them, look
for an alternative campsite.
- Keep your camp clean; cook and prepare food
well away from your sleeping area.
- Do not store food in your tent.
- Hang your food away from your sleeping area in
a bag at least 10 feet off the ground and at
least four feet from the nearest trunk. Or use
commercially available bear-resistant
containers, and locate them away from your
- Do not store personal hygiene products, such
as toothpaste or deodorant, in your tent; secure
these items with your food.
- Do not bury or throw garbage into the nearby
woods. Burn all combustible garbage thoroughly
and secure the remainder with your food.
- Hang harvested animals at least 10 feet off of
the ground and at least four feet from the
nearest tree trunk. A meat pole slung between
two trees is a good option.
If you encounter a persistent or aggressive
bear, contact your local Fish and Game office
with the details.
Unpleasant experiences with bears are mostly
avoidable. Taking some simple, preventive
measures and using good old fashioned common
sense will go a long way towards minimizing bear
conflicts this fall.
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