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‘Bear in mind’ – steps we can take to avoid conflicts with bears posted on 08/01/2018

For many forest dwelling communities, it’s common knowledge that we share the woods with animals of all shapes and sizes. Some of these critters, like songbirds, we welcome to our homes with open arms offering food and well wishes. Other animals, particularly those with sharp teeth and claws, are less welcome because they can harm pets, property or even people.

Black bears, with their keen sense of smell, are particularly susceptible to the draw of an uncleaned barbeque grill, an unlocked dumpster, a dangling bird feeder or a half-eaten bowl of pet food on the back porch. Bears are extremely vulnerable to the dangerous habit of associating human communities and food opportunities. Once a bear gains access to human food or garbage and becomes “habituated” it can lose its natural fear of humans which can lead to a variety of safety problems for both people and bears. Sadly, because bears habituated to human food sources are known to repeat these behaviors, they cannot be relocated and must often be euthanized to protect public safety. This means that Oregon’s black bears need our help to keep themselves, as well as our own communities, safe.

Oregon is home to an estimated 30,000 black bears, many of which live in the northwest part of the state. With so many bears and people trying to occupy the same space, conflicts are inevitable. Specifically, the area along highway 26 between Sandy and Government Camp requires the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife to respond to a high volume of human-bear related conflicts. On a regular basis, citizens in these areas report bears raiding garbage cans, damaging property and coming too close for comfort to humans. Several factors may be contributing to this “hot spot” of encounters including numerous bears in the area, a growing human population, and a constant flux of recreationists and vacationers.

The good news is that these human-bear conflicts can be avoided. By following a few simple guidelines, our communities can be safer places for both people and bears. Here are a few recommendations on how we can help:

– NEVER feed bears.

– Clean and secure garbage cans and barbeques, take garbage with you when leaving your vacation home or rental, and wait to place garbage cans on the street until the morning of pickup.

– Feed pets indoors and minimize bird feeding when bears are active between spring and fall.

– Remove fallen fruit and other attractants and encourage neighbors to do the same.

Bear-proofing your yard and neighborhood has been proven to reduce potentially dangerous encounters and together we can keep Oregon bears wild!

For more information on how to live with black bears visit www.dfw.state.or.us/wildlife/living_with/black_bears.asp

Kurt Licence/MT

(Kurt Licence is a wildlife biologist with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife based at ODFW’s regional office in Clackamas.)




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