Bears are out; know the do’s, don’ts

Remember this: A fed bear is a dead bear.

Spring is here and Washington’s black bears are waking up hungry. And sows often have cubs in tow.

It’s best to keep a lot of distance between yourself and a bear. But hikers, backpackers and others using the woods may find themselves suddenly too close.

“If a close encounter occurs, stand tall, make noise, and back away slowly,” advises Lorna Smith, executive director of Port Townsend-based Western Wildlife Outreach.

Bear spray should be carried where it can be easily reached and you need to be prepared to use it, she said.

Not only are bears a danger in the forest, their need to feed draws them closer to neighborhoods where the pickings are easy.

A bear’s sense of smell may lead it to hone in on human-provided food. Follow these tips to preventing bear problems at home:

Garbage: Store garbage and animal feed inside buildings or in bear-resistant containers. Keep your garbage secured until the morning of your scheduled pickup. Encourage neighbors to do the same.

Gardens and compost: Plant gardens out in the open, away from cover. Avoid composting meat and turn your compost over frequently. Finely chopped fruit and vegetable matter will decompose faster and is less likely to attract bears. A quality electric fence used properly can keep bears out of gardens and compost piles, and away from buildings and domestic animals.

Livestock and beehives: Domestic animals, including chickens, may attract bears. Secure your livestock behind electric fences.

Bird feeders: Bears love to eat birdseed and suet. Take down bird feeders from April through October. Clean up dropped seeds and hulls.

Barbecues: Regularly clean barbecue grills, especially the grease trap, after each use.

Pets: Feed pets indoors or pick up excess and spilled food between meals and clean all pet dishes

Freezers: Keep freezers locked in a secure building or otherwise out of reach of bears.

A new Washington State Law prohibits the feeding of carnivores, including bears, either intentionally or negligently. Involved parties may be subject to a $1.000 fine.

Bears that become habituated to humans and the food they provide are labeled as “problem bears” and could need to be destroyed.

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