By the end of this month, many of Idaho and Washington state’s black bears and grizzly bears will have emerged from their dens, and be on the prowl for easy low-risk calories to feed themselves and in the case of sows with cubs, their tiny, fast-growing offspring as well.  Bear cubs are dependent on their mother’s care and assistance for finding food to survive for several years: up to 2 years for black bears, and up to 3-4 years for grizzlies.  That is a lot of food and a lot of calories that must be located and consumed.

Food made available by thoughtless humans is often an easy source of food for hungry bears.  Prime targets are garbage cans, animal feed, particularly pet food, bird feeders,  barbecues and of course hen houses and bee hives.  Once bears are attracted to these ready sources of food, they will often return again and again.  Bears habituated to human-provided food become “problem bears” which no longer show an instinctual fear of humans.  Bears that hang around humans often end up being killed—a fed bear is a dead bear. Although these scavenging bears seldom pose a real safety risk, wildlife authorities want to ensure public safety.

In Washington State where bear baiting has been illegal for some years, it is now illegal to feed  any large carnivore, even unintentionally.  You can avoid problems by following the checklist below.

 Here is a checklist of “dos and don’ts” if you live or work in bear country:

Keep your garbage cans secure indoors until the morning of pickup.  Use bear resistant trash containers when available.

Don’t feed your pets outdoors, or if you do, make sure no food residue remains between feedings and keep bowls inside when not in use.

Keep all animal feed behind a door with a bear-resistant latch.  Bears learn to slide aside locks or undo hooks!

Hang bird feeders well out of reach and clean up spilled food.

Use electric fencing around chicken houses and beehives, as well as vulnerable livestock such as lambing sheep, or arrange alternative safety systems.

Clean up immediately following picnics and barbecues.  Bears love the smell and taste of any grease left behind.

For more information on what to do keep bears and humans safe visit WWO page: