bear

A black bear.

OLYMPIA - Fall is here, and Washington’s black bears are stocking up fat reserves for winter hibernation.

When it comes to finding food, black bears are opportunistic. They tend foods with the highest number of calories, which can bring them into proximity with people, according to the state Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Officials understand that watching a bear can be an awe-inspiring experience but warn residents to avoid attracting them to their homes or business.

“Be proactive to avoid attracting bears close to populated areas - it helps keep you and them out of harm’s way,” said Rich Beausoleil, the department’s statewide bear and cougar specialist.

Some tips to prevent virtually negative black bear interactions:

-Always store garbage cans in a garage or sturdy building until collection day. Bears are smart and opportunistic. If a garbage can is left out, they'll find it. Put garbage out the morning of collection, not the night before.

-Remove bird feeders (seed and liquid) from porches, trees and other accessible areas, and feed pets inside. Feeders can inadvertently become easy, high-calorie attractants for bears.

-Pick and remove fruit from trees, even the highest branches. Bears love fruit and may climb trees to get it, possibly damaging valuable branches. Also remove fallen fruit.

-Don’t intentionally feed bears, deer, elk or other wild animals. Bears have great memories, so once they find food, they'll likely return and associate food with people. Anything a deer or elk will eat, a bear will eat, too.

-Confine chickens, and their feed, in secured and covered enclosures or barns. Electric fencing is highly recommended for all chicken enclosures.

Department staff members are asking homeowners to take initiative before spotting a bear. If people wait until they see a bear, it may be too late to prevent a negative outcome.

A bear’s natural diet consists of natural foods such as blueberries (256 calories per pound) or huckleberries (166 calories per pound). Access to unnatural, high-calorie foods, such as garbage, birdseed (1,750 calories) and hummingbird feeders (3,200 calories) may delay a bear’s natural hibernation patterns.

That’s another important reason to remove such items, said officials.

Concerns about bear visitations may be reported to 360-902-2936 or a regional fish and wildlife office or, in an emergency, 911.

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