As winter approaches, bears look to bulk up — on your garbage

  • Fri Oct 28th, 2011 9:38pm
  • News

By Alejandro Dominguez Herald Writer

Bears are getting ready to hibernate — and that means they are eating everything they can. The problem is, that out of desperation, some might venture into urban areas.

That’s why people need to keep garbage, compost and bird feeders out of reach for bears.

It is important to remove any possible food supply because bears are creatures of habit. If they find food in one spot, they will be back again, bear specialists said.

“They will remember that spot and try again later. It could be one night later or one year later,” said Doug Zimmer, spokesman for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

And bears can show up even in the most urban of areas — often with unfortunate consequences. In June, a black bear was killed by Lynnwood police because it strayed into a city neighborhood.

Bears are most likely to go after bird feeders because they contain seeds and grain. They can also go after fruit that has dropped from trees and paw through garbage.

“They are opportunistic omnivores,” Zimmer said, who is stationed in Lacey.

Bears are looking for easy food so they will move on if they don’t find any, said Chris Morgan, director for the Grizzly Bear Outreach Project in Bellingham.

“They don’t want to work hard in this time of the year,” he said.

Morgan recommends removing bird feeders, fruit that has fallen from trees and putting trash cans outside only on pick-up days.

Spring and fall are the two seasons where bear encounters in urban areas are more common because it is when the animals begin and end their hibernation cycle, Zimmer said.

At this time of year, bears are foraging along the coasts of the Western Washington, in streams and also in the lower valley. Bears in the state usually go into hibernation by the end of November.

The bears most likely to wander to residential areas are thin and young bears that “don’t know any better,” Zimmer said.

In Washington state, there are between 1,600 to 2,000 black bears. Snohomish County is part of the grizzly bear reservation zone but these animals are low in numbers and should have moved up north at this time of the year, Zimmer said.

If people are hiking in known bear territory, it is recommended they speak up. If they encounter a bear, they should move their arms around and back away slowly, Zimmer said.

Alejandro Dominguez: 425-339-3422;

Keep ‘em out

People can try some simple steps to prevent bears from foraging at their homes. Here are some tips:

•Store garbage indoors or in garbage cans that are bear-proof.

Make sure that bird feeders, birdseed, suet and hummingbird solution are not accessible to bears.

Keep barbecue grills clean and free of grease. Store inside if possible.

Keep pets inside at night if possible and do not leave pet food, livestock food or poultry feed outside without electric fencing.

Compost, fruit trees and beehives attract bears, as do vegetable and flower gardens — enclose them with electric fencing.

Pick fruit from trees on your property regularly.

Avoid the use of outdoor refrigerators and freezers.

Store biodiesel in a tight locked container, inaccessible to bears.

Source: Grizzly Bear Outreach Project