Organizations offer tips to avoid conflicts between bears, humans

April 17, 2012

By Staff

The state Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Grizzly Bear Outreach Project offers tips for people to avoid bear conflicts.

How to avoid bear conflicts

Do not feed bears

Nearly all — more than 90 percent — conflicts between bears and humans result from bears becoming conditioned to associate food with people. Experts said a wild bear can become permanently food-conditioned after a single food handout.

Manage trash

Put garbage out shortly before trucks arrive — not the night before. If you plan to leave several days before pickup, haul garbage to a dump. Keep garbage cans with tight-fitting lids in a shed, garage or fenced area. Spray garbage bins regularly with disinfectants to reduce odors. Keep fish and meat waste in the freezer until they can be disposed of properly. Do not put fish, meat or fruit into compost bins. Use lime in compost to reduce odors.

Remove other attractants

Remove bird feeders from early March through November, as bears become active. Feeders allow residue to build up on the ground below them. Bring in hummingbird feeders at night. Harvest orchard fruit from trees regularly. Do not feed pets outside. Reduce oat and pellet spillage by feeding livestock from buckets. Clean barbecue grills after each use.

Install fences and other barriers

Use electric fencing to prevent raids on orchards, livestock and beehives. However, fencing only works if activated before conflicts occur. Bears can go through electric fencing once they are food-conditioned and know food is available.

If you come in close contact with a bear:

  • Stay calm and avoid direct eye contact, which could elicit a charge. Try to stay upwind and identify yourself as a human by standing up, talking and waving your hands above your head.
  • Do not approach the bear, particularly if you see cubs, and give the bear plenty of room. Increase your distance from the bear, even if it appears unconcerned.
  • If you cannot safely move away from the bear, and the animal does not flee, try clapping your hands or yelling to scare the animal.
  • If the black bear cannot be deterred and is intent on attack, fall  as close to the ground as possible before the bear makes contact and play dead.
  • If the bear attacks, fight back aggressively. Use a deterrent, such as pepper spray or a stick, and fight for your life. Kick, punch or hit the bear with whatever weapon is available. Concentrate your attack on the face, eyes and nose. Fight any black bear that attacks you in a building or tent.

Sources: Department of Fish and Wildlife, Grizzly Bear Outreach Project

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