Under new state laws, residents face fines for feeding bears
October 22, 2012
NEW — 6 a.m. Oct. 22, 2012
Under new state laws, residents face fines for feeding bears intentionally or otherwise, such as by leaving food waste in bear-prone locations.
The state Department of Fish and Wildlife reminded residents about the changes Oct. 19, as black bears start to appear more frequently in areas populated by humans.
“This is the time of year when bears are looking to build up as much fat as possible to get through winter,” said Mike Cenci, deputy Department of Fish and Wildlife police chief, said in a statement. “Putting food scraps out for them or leaving garbage cans or pet food exposed is an open invitation for them to pay you and your neighbors a visit.”
Under a law in effect since June, anybody who “intentionally feeds or attempts to feed” bears and other wild carnivores faces a fine of up to $1,000.
The other law in effect since June authorizes a fine of $87 for anybody who “negligently” feeds or attempts to feed bears and other wild carnivores.
“Food is involved virtually every time we respond to a call about a bear sighted in a neighborhood,” Cenci said. “The new laws are designed to encourage people to take more responsibility for that situation, both for their own safety and for the welfare of bears and other wildlife.
State wildlife managers estimate Washington is home to up to 30,000 black bears.
Though black bears rarely attack people in the wild, they can pose a danger to public safety if they become accustomed to humans, Cenci said.
“Too often, relocating a bear that has learned to scavenge people’s leftovers results just moves the problem somewhere else,” Cenci said. “When that happens, we often have to destroy those animals.”
Residents can avoid feeding wild animals unintentionally by securing garbage and compost, removing bird feeders and other attractants, keeping pet food and pets inside or otherwise secured, and cleaning barbecue grills.