Woodland Park Zoo’s Bear Affair & Big Howl for Wolves

It was a sunny,warm day with people standing shoulder to shoulder anxiously waiting to see what  antics the two grizzly bears would do next as they ripped apart a tent, sleeping bag and cooler in search of food in the mock campsite set up.

Chris Morgan of GBOP says there are possibly only 20 grizzly bears left in the North Cascades. People seem to be less concerned about setting up safe camps in the Cascades because grizzly bears are rarely encountered but the 25,000 black bears in Washington are animals to be respected and smart around when camping.

Morgan says “when you’re in the backcountry you want to hang your food cache as high as you can, as far away from your tent as you can.”  That’s at least 100 yards away from your campsite and 15 feet off the ground. Use bear resistant containers and never leave anything smelly inside your tent.





Sow and two juveniles seek refuge in a cedar tree

This past Saturday a resident form Sammamish notified me of three bears hanging out in her neighbor’s tree. I quickly turned my car around and headed to her house. When I arrived, there were five people in the street, heads up, staring at a 70 foot cedar tree. I knew the bears had to be in that tree, but they were barely visible. Soon my eyes picked out the three black spots hidden in the branches. The resident who called me explained that the bears broke into her neighbor’s chicken coop and ate a few chicks. Fish and Wildlife was called to set a trap next to the chicken coop.

I found out the neighbor has lived in this Sammamish neighborhood for seven years and never saw bears until last year when construction began nearby on a new subdivision. She believes this same sow was spotted last summer rummaging through garbage and feeding on bird feeders. Following these incidents, the entire neighborhood worked together to remove attractants and keep garbage stored inside until the morning of garbage pick-up. Unfortunately, the allure of the chickens was too great for the sow to resist. I gave the neighbor information about electric fencing the coop and also reminded her to remove ripe or fallen fruit from her apple trees.

For more tips on coexisting with bears visit GBOP’s website.


Spring is here and the bears are out in Sammamish

Last week my friend Linda who lives in Sammamish, Washington told me her neighbors down the block saw a couple of bears searching for food. The Kennedy’s backyard backs up to a ravine and every spring they see evidence of bears. It was Tuesday night at around 10 p.m. when they heard some noises in their backyard. When they looked out the window they saw a sow and a juvenile heading towards the bird feeder. The Kennedy’s said they should have taken the feeder down but thought there was more time before the bears would be out. Lesson learned! 

Bear Smart Checklist

The good news is that Linda took action. She posted the GBOP’s bear smart checklist on neighborhood mailboxes and handed out a few bear safe brochures to her neighbors who wanted to learn more about how to be bear safe.

Most people don’t realize that bears have an exceptional sense of smell – seven times greater than a hound. It has been documented that a bear’s sense of smell is so acute that they can smell bird seed from a mile away.

As a community member of Issaquah Highlands and the GBOP field representative for the I90 corridor, I am grateful that Linda took initiative to help get the word out to her neighbors about simple steps they can take to be bear safe. It takes a community working together to build safe neighborhoods for people and bears.

If you live in bear country, you too can take these simple steps in your neighborhood to keep bears safe and avoid human/bear encounters.

  • Keep garbage indoors until the morning of pick-up.
  • Eliminate potential sources of easy food.
  • Only feed birds in the winter when bears are less active.
  • Keep pet food indoors.
  • Clean barbecues after each use and store inside.
  • Pick ripened fruit from the trees and ground.
  • Keep biodiesel in bear-safe containers.


For more information on staying safe while living, working and recreating in bear country you can visit GBOP’s website at www.bearinfo.org

Bears of the Last Frontier, Nature’s three-part special

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Get up close and personal with North American bears in
THIRTEEN’s Nature’s three-part special
Bears of the Last Frontier, beginning May 8, 2011 on PBS


Join the wildlife community and watch episodes at pbs.org/nature

Bears are an ultimate icon of the wild, regarded as among the most successful wild animals on  the planet.  Three of the eight bear species in the world – brown bears, black bears, and polar  bears –can be found in Alaska, one of North America’s last truly wild frontiers.  Nature joins  adventurer and bear biologist Chris Morgan on a year-long motorcycle odyssey deep into  Alaska’s bear country to explore the amazing resiliency and adaptability of these majestic  animals as they struggle to make a living in five dramatically diverse Alaskan ecosystems:  coastal, urban, mountain, tundra, and pack ice.  Bears of the Last Frontier, a special three-part series, premieres on three consecutive Sundays, beginning May 8, 2011 at 8 p.m. (ET) on  PBS (check local listings).  After broadcast, the programs will stream at pbs.org/nature.  A  companion book documenting the epic journey and the making of the film will be released by  Stewart, Tabori & Chang, an imprint of ABRAMS in April 2011.
Currently in its 29th Season, Nature is a production of THIRTEEN in association with WNET – one of America’s most prolific and respected public media providers.

“There’s a constant tension filming bears on their turf,” said Fred Kaufman, Series Executive  Producer.  “Nature is pleased to have Chris Morgan as our guide into this unknown territory  where anything can happen.  His journey into the world of the bears features mesmerizing  spontaneous interactions with them that can be both suspenseful and captivating.  He allows us  to get a look at the candid behavior of bears being bears in their natural surroundings.”  Traveling with a small film crew whose inclusion in the series creates a behind-the-scenes  feel throughout, Morgan immerses himself completely in the bears’ world to give us an  astonishingly intimate portrait of North American bears.  Over the course of a 3,000 mile  journey that includes the Alaska Peninsula, Anchorage, Denali, Brooks Range, Kaktovik, and  Barrow, Morgan reveals bears as curious individuals with unique personalities.  They are  complex socials animals with lives that are extremely vulnerable to habitat encroachment and  climate change.
From lush forests to icy Arctic, Bears of the Last Frontier captures the allure of the wild  symbolized by these remarkable creatures.  Over the course of three episodes, the film reveals  survival strategies of each of the three bear species.

Part 1 – City of Bears
Chris Morgan sets up camp at a remote spot in the heart of Alaskan wilderness, alongside the  largest concentration of grizzlies in the world.  It is June in the Alaska Peninsula.  The sun sets  well into night and bears are taking advantage of the long days to feed, mate, and raise new cubs.   Morgan tracks their progress as they feast on the riches of the season and re-establish the  complex hierarchal social dynamics of bear society.  Along the way, he experiences close  encounters with bears, observing brutal battles among males during mating season as well as  tender moments between a grizzly mom and her cubs.

Part 2 – The Road North
The second hour explores the world of black bears caught in the crossroads of urban  development in Anchorage and the wilderness.  This is a new normal for bears and for their  human neighbors.  Some bears are so comfortable living in urban surroundings that their  primary habitat is a golf course.  In residential areas, bears frequently raid garbage bins and  birdfeeders for easy snacks.  But these behaviors are less than ideal for bears and residents alike.   Morgan heads north out of Anchorage to Denali National Park, where the mountains loom over  treeless plains and bears get by on a diet of thousands of berries a day.  The grizzlies share the  enormous park with foxes, wolves, and moose — and with one intrepid bear biologist and his  team. Morgan continues his journey north on a bone-shaking 610-mile motorcycle journey from  Denali to Prudhoe Bay along the only Alaskan Highway to reach the Arctic.  Prudhoe Bay, a once-  pristine area at the edge of the Arctic Ocean, has been changed forever by the oil industry.

Part 3 – Arctic Wanderers
In the final hour, Chris Morgan travels to the far north of Alaska, the tiny North Slope town of  Kaktovik.  It’s early November and winter is coming on.  But each year, the polar bears struggle  for extended periods on dwindling fat reserves, waiting for the opportunity to hunt on sea ice  that takes longer to freeze.  In early spring, Morgan joins local hunters in Barrow, the  northernmost city in Alaska, as they go out on their own hunts, facing some of the same  challenges as the bears.  In late spring, Morgan travels to the North Slope of the Brooks Range,  where countless thousands of caribou cover the ground for miles.  The grizzlies are waiting for  them, as they have for thousands of years.

Nature’s Bears of the Last Frontier is a production of Pontecorvo Productions and THIRTEEN in association with Wildlife Media, National Geographic Channel and WNET. Written and Produced by Joe Pontecorvo.  Nature is a production of THIRTEEN in association with WNET for PBS.  Fred Kaufman is Executive Producer.  William Grant is Executive-in-Charge.

Nature pioneered a television genre that is now widely emulated in the broadcast industry. Throughout the series’ history, Nature has brought the natural world into the homes of millions of viewers.  The series has been consistently among the most-watched primetime series on public television.
Nature has won nearly 600 honors from the television industry, the international wildlife film communities, and environmental organizations – including 10 Emmys, three Peabodys and the first award given to a television program by the Sierra Club.  In October of 2010, the series won the Christopher Parsons Outstanding Achievement Award, given to “an organization or individual that has made a globally significant contribution to wildlife filmmaking, conservation and/or the public’s understanding of the environment.”  The award, given by the Wildscreen Festival in Bristol, England, is one of the wildlife film industry’s highest honors.

PBS.org/nature is the award-winning web companion to Nature featuring streaming episodes, teacher’s guides and more.
Major corporate support for Nature is provided by Canon U.S.A., Inc. Additional support is provided by the Lillian Goldman Charitable Trust, by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and by the nation’s public television stations.

About WNET
New York public media company WNET is a pioneering provider of television and web content.  The parent of THIRTEEN, WLIW21 and Creative News Group, WNET brings such acclaimed broadcast series and websites as Tavis Smiley, Need To Know, Nature, Great Performances, American Masters, Charlie Rose, Secrets of the Dead, Religion & Ethics Newsweekly, Visions, Consuelo Mack WealthTrack, Miffy and Friends, Angelina Ballerina: The Next Steps and Cyberchase to national and international audiences.  Through its wide range of channels and platforms, WNET serves the entire New York City metro area with unique local productions, broadcasts and innovative educational and cultural projects.  In all that it does, WNET pursues a single, overarching goal – to create media experiences of lasting significance for New York, America and the world.  For more information, visit www.wnet.org

Bears and garbage – a rotten mix

I have lived in the bear country of Issaquah Highlands since 2004. A community of 2,600 homes, Issaquah Highlands is located in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains where black bear, cougar, bobcat and deer wander. For these reasons, it’s also a fascinating case study in an area where wildlife and people share habitat.

Black bear paw prints
Black bear paw prints on fence

In 2007, I became aware of the black bears because of several bear sightings. On one sunny afternoon, my husband and I saw a bear wondering leisurely through our neighborhood park while riding our bikes. Another time we saw a bear behind our house in the greenbelt and then a bear jumped over our fence in the early morning to eat the grapes rotting in our yard waste bins. We quickly realized that simply storing our garbage, recycle and yard waste bin in the garage until the morning of garbage pick-up immediately solved the problem. The bears stopped coming.

These incidents motivated me to talk to my neighbors about ways to prevent attracting bears into our backyards. On a weekly basis, I took it upon myself to monitor bear activity in my community by taking photos of strewn garbage and mapping neighborhoods that had reported bear incursions. I also initiated a dialogue with the Issaquah Highlands Homeowners Association and the Board of Directors about the problems along with my closest ally and neighbor TK Panni. It was around this time that Chris Morgan of GBOP contacted me and offered help and resources.

Through GBOP I’ve been able to intensify my activities in the Issaquah Highlands and also expand my reach to include those who want to learn about grizzly bears as well. My area of focus for GBOP stretches from my backyard across I-90. What’s good for black bears is good for grizzly bears, is good for people.

After attending many board meetings, monitoring black bear/garbage incursions for countless hours, gathering community support for regulatory change and lots of perseverance, our efforts finally paid off. At the December 2010 Board meeting, the Issaquah Highlands Board adopted the following rule and regulation change regarding the storage of garbage, recycling and yard waste bins:

  1. Any trash (grey), recycling (blue), or yard waste (green) containers and/or bags must be stored indoors during non-pickup hours.
  2. Trash cans may only be placed at the curb/street for pickup 12 hours prior to and 12 hours after pickup time.
  3. The ARC will consider variance requests in accordance with the variance policy in section 4.5 of the CCR’s under the following circumstances:
    1. Topography
    2. Natural Obstructions
    3. Hardship
Garbage tipped over by bear

In addition to the rule change, we urged the Board to adopt the Bear Smart Best Practices which they did.  It provides many tips for people trying to prevent bears from accessing non-natural attractants in residential neighborhoods. Some of the recommendations include advice about not feeding birds when bears are active (you may be surprised that black sunflower seeds draw bears into yards from miles away), cleaning and storing barbecues after each use and only placing garbage or food smelling cans outside on the morning of garbage pick-up. Residents can access the best practices via the Rules and Regulations of Issaquah Highlands, on the Issaquah Highlands website or in our local newspaper.

By becoming Bear Smart, we can all learn to live safely with black and grizzly bears, encouraging bears to forage in the wild, away from human homes. One of GBOP’s goals is to reduce human-bear conflicts. The passage of this rule in the Issaquah Highlands is an important step in that direction. It’s also a great example of a community that cares enough to make a small change so that bears and people can thrive.

For tips on co-existing with bears, see the GBOP page

Black Bear video from Issaquah Highlands, Washington

Since early summer I set up a remote camera in Issaquah Highlands in hopes of capturing a photo of the resident black bear. Finally in September, I was thrilled to finally capture this video of the bear, but I was not happy the bear was eating garbage.

For the past several years black bears have been lured into our neighborhood for a buffet of treats from our garbage that many people leave outside their homes. This past summer the bears were frequent visitors to Wisteria Park where I set up a remote camera in Maggie’s yard. The bears were entering the neighborhood through her yard, as well as other neighbors’ yards. Once the bears smelled ripe garbage they wandered down the alley pulling out trash from garbage cans and brought the garbage back to Maggie’s yard where they ripped open the bags to eat everything.

Maggie and some of her neighbors living next to the greenbelt store their garbage in their garages until the morning of pick-up to deter bears. Unfortunately, many of her neighbors do not follow the same Bear Smart practices;see tips for coexistence at https://westernwildlife.org/black-bears/tips-for-coexistence/. In 1995 a study in Pinetop Lakes, Arizona showed that by storing garbage inside until the morning of garbage pick-up reduced bear/garbage incursions from 68% to just 2% http://www.bearsmart.com/report/321.

Bears have an acute sense of smell. They can smell garbage that is stored outside and birdseed from a mile away. Bears also have an incredibly good memory. Once a bear finds a food source, such as garbage, birdseed, even biodiesel, it makes a mental map and will then return year after year to that site. That is why it is especially important to be consistent and for everyone in a neighborhood to always store their garbage inside or in a bear resistant container.

If you are having problems with garbage and bears in your neighborhood, you may want to talk with your neighbors about what they can do to prevent bear incursions or just print this bear smart check list at the bottom of the page https://westernwildlife.org/our-work/gbop-products/ and send it to your neighbors. That is what I did in my community in the Issaquah Highlands, and it is making a difference for us and the bears.