Take steps to stay safe around bears

May 18, 2010

By Staff

Ecologists reminded Issaquah and Washington residents to take steps to avoid encounters with wildlife during Bear Awareness Week.

The observance continues through May 22, just as black and grizzly bears wake from winter hibernation and set out in search of food.

Rich Beausoleil, bear and cougar specialist for the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, said people can co-exist with bears. He encouraged residents to eliminate potential sources of food for bears, keep pet food indoors, clean outdoor grills after use and only put out birdseed in winter.

Both bear species call Washington home, but black bears might be a more common sight for Issaquah residents. The species includes about 25,000 animals throughout the Evergreen State. Scientists estimate fewer than 20 grizzly bears remain in the state.

Bears eat wild plants and seeds — most of the time.

“However, bears can start looking for food in all the wrong places, including porches, sheds, garages, garbage cans, barbecues, kennels and bird feeders,” Chris Morgan, bear ecologist and co-director of the Bellingham-based Grizzly Bear Outreach Project, said in a news release. “Bears have an excellent sense of smell. It’s much better than that of a dog, and they have a great memory when it comes to food.”

Find more wildlife safety tips at the Grizzly Bear Outreach Project website and the state Department of Fish and Wildlife website.

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