Governor proclaims official Bear Awareness Week

May 12-18 devoted to increasing awareness about the black and grizzly bears of Washington

As bears begin to emerge from winter sleep, they can be assured that Washington residents are going to be a little more informed about them this year, thanks to a new official Bear Awareness Week proclamation signed by Governor Christine Gregoire.

“Black bears and grizzly bears face very different problems here in Washington”, says Chris Morgan, ecologist and director of the Grizzly Bear Outreach Project, the organization at the center of Bear Awareness Week activities. “As more and more people move into black bear habitat, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for these adaptable creatures to ignore temptations”. Temptations such as human garbage, bird seed, and fruit trees. “But for the super-rare grizzly bear it is a more grave concern – avoiding extinction”, he added.

Governor Gregoire established Bear Awareness Week to encourage people to learn more about our ursine neighbors, how to avoid conflicts with them, and to appreciate these majestic creatures in Washington – one of just four states that is wild enough to still support both species of bear.

Although there are some 25,000 black bears in Washington, fewer than 30 grizzly bears remain in the North Cacades 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.

Morgan and his team of local outreach staff work across the North Cascades to bring information about grizzly and black bears to people – especially those living in bear country. Dennis Ryan, GBOP’s field person in Okanogan County commented, “We were delighted 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”.

Although several grizzly bear sightings are reported each year, verification can be difficult given the elusive nature of the species. Black bears on the other hand have already been showing up in some unusual places this year. “Both Renton and Puyallup have had black bears in town, usually young bears that are still trying to establish a home range”, says Morgan, adding that there are many simple steps people can take to keep bears in the woods 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.

Still, serious bear conflicts are rare, and research conducted by the Grizzly Bear Outreach Project shows wide public support for grizzly bear conservation. For the US Fish and Wildlife Service, grizzly bear recovery in Washington will largely depend upon an engaged public that can base opinions on facts rather than on myths about these creatures. “It’s gratifying to see that people want to know more about grizzly bears, and generally support efforts to conserve them,” said Doug Zimmer from the Fish and Wildlife Service in Olympia.

Other outreach project supporters include, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Conservation Northwest, and Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle. Lisa Dabek, Director of Field Conservation at Woodland Park Zoo witnesses the popularity of bears on a regular basis. “They are one of our most popular animals here at the zoo – very charismatic ambassadors for northwest ecosystems”.

“For many”, says Chris Morgan, “that is the true essence of the bear – the spirit of the northwest”.

The Grizzly Bear Outreach Project and partners will be celebrating Bear Awareness Week with several events, listed below.

GBOP Bear Awareness Week Activities, May 12-18

Nan Laney supports the northwest side of the North Cascades 360.856.5076,

Tuesday, May 13, 7pm – presentation at Backcountry Essentials in Bellingham. The presentation will focus on the North Cascades grizzly bear – a species on the knife-edge of extinction in our own backyard.

Saturday, May 17, 6pm – dinner and presentation in Concrete with special guest Anne Braaten, Wildlife Biologist for North Cascades National Park, who will be sharing her experiences and knowledge regarding the bear shepherding techniques pioneered by Carrie Hunt of Wind River Bear Institute. GBOP’s Nan Laney will share additional information about being Bear Smart, and ways that rural residents and backcountry recreationists can prevent the human-food-conditioning of our resident black bears.

Dennis Ryan supports the northeast side of the North Cascades 509.923.2464,

Tuesday, May 13 – presentation to the Omak teachers and students at the wilderness retreat at Camp Disautel. This retreat has been held for over 50 years. This will mark the third year of GBOP’s involvement.

Saturday, May 17, 9am until 3pm – ‘Bear Awareness Day’ will be sponsored by GBOP and hosted at the North Cascades Basecamp in Mazama. Join us for a day long look at bears of the North Cascades including their biology, habitat and behavior. Learn to use a remote camera, look for bear sign and be bear safe. Get an update on the status of grizzly bear recovery in the North Cascades.

Julie L. (Hayes) Hopkins supports the I-90 corridor 425.223.7648,

Tuesday, May 13 – “Living with Bears” presentation at Cle Elum Middle School for the Environmental Science classes.

Thursday, May 15 – “Grizzly Bear Recovery” presentation at Evergreen College for the Protected Areas Class. Friday, May 16th, 7pm – information table at the ‘Groovin’ for Grizzlies’ celebration, 7pm at Boundary Bay Brewery in Bellingham, sponsored by Conservation NW. This is a family event.

Wendy Gardner 206.947.2374,

Wednesday, May 14 – an information table will be set up at the Woodland Park Zoo from 10am until 2pm.

Thursday, May 15 – an information table will be set up at the Greenwood Library from 1pm until 4pm.

Background Information:

• The Grizzly Bear Outreach Project (GBOP) is a non-advocacy information and education program with support from 18 government and non-government organizations: US Fish and Wildlife Service, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Seattle City Light, Secure Rural Schools and Community Self Determination Act, Woodland Park Zoo, Conservation Northwest, Seattle, USDA Forest Service, Defenders of Wildlife, Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee, REI, National Park Service, WILDTIME Foods Grizzlies Brand, Grizzly Industrial, Canopy, Counter Assault, Living with Wildlife Foundation, Sanitary Service Company, Foothills Gazette.

• GBOP’s mission is to ‘Promote an accurate understanding of grizzly bears and their recovery in the North Cascades though community education and involvement’.