Season’s first bears are spotted locally
April 2, 2013
Welcoming back spring also means welcoming back bears.
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife heard the first spring reports of bears in the Issaquah and North Bend area during the week of March 18. Though wildlife appearance is a little early for the season, the department credited the abnormally mild winter with disrupting regular hibernation habits. That means regions of Issaquah should begin looking out for the scavenging animals.
“The Issaquah Highlands and Mirrormont are probably one of our biggest focus areas,” said Rich Beausoleil, department bear and cougar specialist.
Throughout the Snoqualmie Ridge and North Bend, the waking creatures are expected to come down from the mountains in search of food.
After hibernating for months, losing significant body weight, bears may not immediately head toward neighborhood trashcans, Beausoleil said.
“So, they’re going to come out, and the first thing they’ll eat is grass to get their digestive system going,” he said. After that, they will get hungry and look for the easiest source of food. “They go looking for freebies and we leave plenty of that around.”
In response to residential areas inviting bears with intentional or unintentional food waste, a new state law went into effect last summer that would allow the department to fine those for attracting wildlife.
“Intentional feeding can bring a fine of up to $1,000,” said a department release. “Last year, WDFW officials responded to 444 situations involving bears, ranging from raids on garbage cans and bird feeders to confrontations with pets.”
Beausoleil said that officers will not be actively looking for violations, but rather will use a “two- or three-strike” approach.
“Lots of states have this law and it’s been proven to be highly successful in reducing conflict,” he said. “We’re not using this to make money, it will depend on the severity. We’re looking at it like another tool in our toolbox.”
The department wishes to apply the same multiple-strike policy to bears that encroach upon residential areas in search for food, he said. It will attempt to trap and relocate bears far away before considering destroying animals.
“If we get a call, come out and the bear has left, that’s not a strike,” Beausoleil said. “But, if we have to capture and tag the animal, it’s the first strike.”
After that, again depending on the severity and activity of the bear, further activity could lead to its destruction. Enforcement of the new laws to monitor food waste that could attract the animals is seen by the department as a proactive approach to keep bears away before they ever have to be captured and tagged.
“For the bear, it’s always lose-lose,” Beausoleil said.
On the Web
Learn more about living with wildlife at http://wdfw.wa.gov/living/bears.html.
You should know
To prevent bear conflicts, follow these simple tips:
- Never intentionally feed bears or other wild animals.
- Keep garbage cans in a garage or another secure area until collection day.
- Remove pet food from areas accessible to wildlife.
- Take down bird feeders until winter.
- Thoroughly clean barbecue grills after each use.
- When camping, keep a clean campsite by thoroughly cleaning all cooking utensils after use and sealing uneaten food in airtight containers stored in bear-proof canisters away from sleeping areas.
Source: Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife