Having recently emerged from their long winter's sleep, Idaho's black bears are now on the move, looking for any and all food sources that might help them regain weight lost during hibernation.
High calorie human foods are a major attractant, particularly if they are easy to obtain. With that in mind, Fish and Game officials are urging homeowners who live in more rural settings to use common sense and be "bear aware."
Unsecured garbage is the bear attractant of choice this spring.
"We've already had a series of bear incidents in the Shadow Valley area," Fish and Game conservation educator Evin Oneale said. "A young black bear, fresh out of hibernation, raided several unsecured trash cans looking for food. This led him to some livestock pens where he killed and partially consumed two goats."
The bear was dispatched by Fish and Game officers on April 20.
This sub-adult black bear is a "poster child" for not feeding bears.
"This bear showed up in the same area last year and someone made the mistake of intentionally feeding him," Oneale said.
In the days that followed, the bear became more emboldened, raiding trash cans and acting aggressive towards people. He was finally trapped and moved to the Garden Valley back country in the fall, where he apparently hibernated. This spring, he returned to the place where he remembered receiving easy food rewards.
"All bears are opportunists; their whole life revolves around food," Oneale said. "They remember every single location where they receive a food reward, and if they get one from your residence, or your neighbor's residence, they will be back for more."
The end result is always the same - a dead bear.
There's an easy solution for homeowners living near prime bear country.
"Securing food, garbage and anything else that a bear might consider food is the answer," Oneale said. "If a bear does not receive a food reward, it will move on."
Homeowners can help keep bears wild and avoid costly property damage by taking these simple precautions:
- Bears like pet food as much as dogs or cats do. Keep pet food secured and not in a bowl outdoors.
- Keep garbage in a secure location and place it at the curb only on the morning of pick up.
- If you encounter a persistent or aggressive bear, contact the local Fish and Game office with the details.
Remember to be vigilant. It's shaping up to be a hot, dry summer.