Sunday, December 8, 2013
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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 aware."
"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 campgrounds."
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 more."
That spells trouble for everyone, particularly the bear.
"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 avoidable.
"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: