Take steps to stay safe around bears

May 18, 2010

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.

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Bear facts educate highlands residents

June 30, 2009

Whenever her Issaquah Highlands neighbors reported a black bear sighting or bear activity last year, Cathy Macchio marked a highlands map with a paw print. She recorded 15 bear sightings last year.

Macchio works to make sure humans and bears stay safe — no small feat in a sprawling neighborhood with nearly 7,000 residents. Bears, after all, are attracted to everything from garbage to backyard bird feeders.

“We’re creating these big buffet tables in our own backyards,” she said.

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Off The Press

June 9, 2009

Zoo invites visitors, wary reporter to feed grizzlies

Woodland Park Zoo visitors ogle resident grizzlies Keema and Denali from behind thick glass and across an enclosure landscaped to hide the barrier between man and beast. Outfitted with a bubbling stream and evergreens, the bear exhibit resembles a stretch of Pacific Northwest wilderness once part of the grizzly’s range.

Zookeepers know the grizzly habitat can resemble a campsite after a few tweaks. On June 6, keepers transformed the grizzly habitat into a campsite, albeit one pitched by ignorant campers and stocked with provisions that can bring grizzlies and humans into contact with one another.

As part of the annual Bear Affair, keepers shooed the grizzlies from the habitat while they added a haphazard campsite to the enclosure. Food was stored near the tent, trash was left unsecured — both no-nos for campers hoping to avoid an unfortunate grizzly encounter. When keepers released grizzlies into the redone enclosure, Keema and Denali made short work of the nylon tent, rubber raft and plastic coolers left behind by nonexistent campers.

I imagined the bears would tear through the mock campsite, using their claws — each 3 to 4 inches long — to wreak havoc. Instead, Keema and Denali moved methodically through the campsite, relying on their powerful noses to direct them to the choicest items left behind by their keepers.

I watched as one of the bears lumbered away from his brother to eat a box of cereal. Even bears hoard Cap’n Crunch. Meanwhile, the other bear shredded a raft into confetti-sized pieces and then used his powerful paws to pry open a beverage cooler filled with juice. Less than 40 minutes after the bears set upon the campsite, only debris remained.

Zookeepers hosted a second campsite demonstration later. During the second round, however, keepers used bear-safe provisions and techniques — safer for bears and humans alike.

Humans continue to encroach on bear habitat. Bear Affair was set up to alert people about how interactions between bear and man can be detrimental to both species. Read more

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