Governor Gregoire Declares May 16-22 “Bear Awareness Week”

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 13, 2010

Contact:  Sharon Negri, Co-Director, Grizzly Bear Outreach Project (GBOP), snegri@igc.org, (206) 799-7372 or (206) 780-9718
Contact:  Matt Fikejs, Media Liaison, GBOP, easmef@msn.com, (206) 914-4382
Note: Photos available (grizzly bear and black bear images)

Governor Gregoire declares May 16-22 “Bear Awareness Week”
Special resources celebrate state’s grizzly and black bears and educate the public on how to co-exist

Black bears and grizzlies are an important part of our state’s natural heritage.  Today, Washington has one of the healthiest black bear populations in the U.S.  It is also one of just five states in the lower 48 still wild enough for a small number of grizzly bears.

Recognizing the value of bears and the need to educate the public on how to live and recreate safely with them, Governor Christine Gregoire recently declared May 16-22 “Bear Awareness Week.”  Among other points, the Governor’s proclamation notes, “Whereas, by educating the public on the ecology, behavior, and conservation of bears, it is possible for people and bears to coexist peacefully…”  (Go to http://www.bearinfo.org/bear-awareness-week to read the full proclamation.)

“During Bear Awareness Week, we want to remind people there are many simple steps they can take to keep bears in the woods and mountains and out of harm’s way.  For example, hanging bird feeders high, storing garbage where bears can’t get at it, and putting it out as close to pick-up time as possible are all effective steps,” notes Sharon Negri, Co-Director of the Grizzly Bear Outreach Project (GBOP), the organization at the center of Bear Awareness Week.

To engage the public in learning more about their ursine neighbors, GBOP launched a number of resources today at http://www.bearinfo.org/bear-awareness-week:

  • Special events section to learn about events like Woodland Park Zoo’s “Bear Affair & Big Howl for Wolves”
  • Resources section to explore more about bears and bear safety, including GBOP’s beautiful new booklet “Living with Bears in Washington State”

Although there are some 20,000 black bears in Washington, less than 40 grizzly bears remain in the North Cascades and Selkirk Mountains.  Biologists believe there may be as few as 10 individual grizzly bears in the Cascades, a ten-thousand square mile ecosystem that was designated as a grizzly bear recovery zone by the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee in 1991.

Negri and the GBOP team of local outreach staff work across the North Cascades to bring information about grizzly and black bears to people, especially those who live in and visit bear country.  Chris Morgan, bear biologist and GBOP Co-Director says, “We were thrilled when the Governor agreed to establish Bear Awareness Week.  GBOP is all about distributing accurate, helpful facts about bears as broadly as possible, and this definitely helps.”

A sampling of Bear Awareness Week facts from the GBOP website:

  • Black bears have good eyesight (comparable to humans) and very good hearing.  Plus, their sense of smell is unparalleled – seven times greater than a dog.
  • Black bears are not always black.  They can be brown, cinnamon, blond, white (e.g., the Kermode or Spirit bear), and even a bluish-gray (e.g., the Glacier bear).
  • Grizzly bears usually have 1 to 4 cubs (average of 2), which are born in the den in late January.  At birth, their eyes are closed, they have very little hair, and they weigh less than a pound.
  • Because grizzly bears live off stored fat for up to 6 months of the year while denning, they need to eat large quantities during the time they forage.  An adult male may consume the caloric equivalent of 10 huckleberry pies per day during the height of the berry season.
  • The oldest wild grizzly bear ever captured in North America was a female in the Cabinet Mountains of Montana, and she was 34 years old.

The Grizzly Bear Outreach Project (GBOP) is a non-advocacy, science-based organization funded from multiple sources, including state and federal agencies and non-governmental organizations.  GBOP provides a community-based approach to bear awareness and safety that involves homeowners, businesses, and local officials.  Experience has shown that when community members understand bear behavior and ecology, they are willing to take steps to become better neighbors to wildlife and reduce encounters.  Learn more at www.bearinfo.org.

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