State’s bears are waking up hungry

  • By Sharon Wootton
  • Friday, April 6, 2012 3:52pm
  • Life

Imagine 25,000 black bears emerging from their winter dens. Better yet, imagine 25,000 hungry, cranky black bears roaming much of the state.

During their winter rest, bears can lose more than half their body weight. Not only are the bears hungry, they’re homing in on high-nutritional items.

Bears feast on easily accessible food. Ninety percent of a bear’s diet is wild plants, but human leftovers, if they’re easily accessible, are big draws. Think garbage cans, pet food and bird feeders.

Yes, bird feeders. Several years ago I saw a photograph of a black bear, up on its hind legs, working over a bird feeder on the Long Beach Peninsula.

If you live in an area where bears occasionally prowl for spring, the feeders should come down, be cleaned and put away until fall, according to the Bellingham-based Grizzly Bear Outreach Project (which includes several large carnivores, including black bears).

Suggestions include:

At home, keep garbage cans indoors until just before pick-up; store pet food indoors and keep pets indoors at night.

Campers should create an odor-free zone; don’t set up next to trails or streams, which are natural bear routes; avoid camping near berries, a good food sources for bears; and when not camping at a designed campsite, locate your cook area and food cache at least 100 yards downwind from your tent.

Never leave food unattended unless properly stored (bear-proof container or in your car); do not bring chocolate, candy, wrappers, toothpaste, perfume, deodorant, feminine hygiene products, insect repellent and lip balm or canned tuna (strong odor when opened).

Never cook or eat in your tent. Hang cookware and any other odiferous items in a cache, wash all dishes and cans right after eating, at least 100 yards from the campsite.

If you’ve packed food in, pack it out, even the apple cores.

On the trail: A bear generally avoids human encounters. If it hears your voice, it will usually avoid you, so talking or singing on the trail, particularly in dense brush or near moving water, is a good idea.

If you have a dog, keep it on a leash. A loose dog may fight with a bear and run back to you with a bear hot on its heels. Consider carrying bear spray. It might help if you meet a potentially aggressive bear.

The Grizzly Bear Outreach Project has an excellent website at www.bearinfo.org.

Biking the long way

Tired of the same bike routes, even the fundraising rides? Then consider an organized biking vacation such as the Ride Around Washington.

Each year the ride, a Cascade Bike Club event, takes on a different region. The Aug. 4 to 11 ride is through the Pend Oreille and Palouse regions of Eastern Washington and Idaho.

For the nuts and bolts of the trip, including training, attend the Cascade Bike Club’s presentation at 7 p.m. April 20 at REI, 222 Yale Ave. N., Seattle.

Photographer Dan Hershman (Getty Images, Oregon Public Television) will share images on the region.

Palouse on the loose: Palouse Falls, between Washtucna and Lyons Ferry in Eastern Washington, and in the state park (bring your Discover Pass) of the same name, is in full fury.

Nothing fits the word “thundering” in this state like the Palouse. Swollen with spring rains and snowmelt, it falls in spectacular fashion a little under 200 feet, the length varying with the volume of water going over the edge.

Columnist Sharon Wootton can be reached at 360-458-3964 or www.songandword.com.

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