Beware bears: Warm weather brings them out

Periods of warm weather over the past few weeks have had people in Western Washington waking from their winter hibernation.

We aren’t the only ones. Black bears are coming out of their winter sleep, too, and they may well wander into your back yard.

Washington is home to about 25,000 black bears and fewer than 30 grizzly bears, said Matt Fikejs with the Bellingham-based Grizzly Bear Outreach Project.

About 20 grizzly bears live in the North Cascades.

As bears wake up this time of year, they are looking for food. The biggest draws for bears are bird feeders, state Department of Fish and Wildlife Sgt. Randy Lambert said. Remove bird feeders from early March through November. If you have hummingbird feeders, bring them inside for the night.

Fish and Wildlife averages 60 to 70 calls each year in Snohomish County, Lambert said. Some bears, typically between 10 and 20 each year, need to be trapped.

An $8,000 grant from the Stillaguamish Tribe will help officials this year pay for a new bear trap and a deer decoy, Fish and Wildlife Capt. Bill Hebner said.

In April 2009, a black bear was frequenting the wooded median of I-5 near Stanwood. Fish and Wildlife agents lured it into a trap baited with doughnuts and maple syrup. The bear was moved to a safer home away from freeways.

So far this year, no one in Snohomish County has reported a problem bear, Lambert said.

“I’m surprised we haven’t had any sightings yet,” he said. “They should be out and about now.”

Bears have a sharp sense of smell, so it is important to keep your trash cans in a garage and closed with tight-fitting lids, Fikejs said. Put garbage out for pickup in the morning instead of the night before. Feed your pets inside or during the day, and bring pet food inside for the night.

Keep meat waste and fish tails in the freezer until you can dispose of them safely. Clean your barbecue grill after you use it. If you can smell the barbecue, it’s not clean enough. Store the grill in a shed or garage and keep the doors closed.

Katya Yefimova: 425-339-3452, kyefimova@heraldnet.com.

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