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Hungry bears looking for food

Hungry bears are warming up and coming out of hibernation.

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ISSAQUAH –The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is warning state residents to keep on the lookout for hungry bears at this time of year, as the animals awake from hibernation and start looking for food.

It is against the law to feed bears. And if anyone feeds them intentionally, or out of negligence, they could receive a fine.

Several people living on a nice, quiet street in Issaquah named Big Bear Place said they have seen the local wildlife their road is named after.

Mike Pernack had a bear sighting just last year. “They’re no problem at all, except for getting in the garbage, he said. “That’s why we all have bear-proof garbage cans.”

Pernack invested in a bear-proof garbage can after a recent close encounter.

“It gets the adrenaline going,” he said. “It’s something to see them. You don’t want to get too close. They looked at me. I looked at them and they stuck around a little bit and went down the hill.”

State Fish and Wildlife Capt. Mike Hobbs said that after an unseasonably warm winter and spring, bears will now be rummaging for food.

“They are large, wild carnivores,” Hobbs said. “They’re looking for a meal and they want the easiest meal they can get.”

Officers say to secure garbage cans, remove bird feeders at night, clean back patio grills and just be bear aware.

“If you live near an area and you know there’s bear sightings and you’re not taking enough steps to mitigate that, yeah, you could be fined,” Hobbs said.

blackbearOLYMPIA — Spring weather has arrived early in many parts of the state, prompting state wildlife managers to issue their annual warning about avoiding contact with black bears.

Rich Beausoleil, bear and cougar specialist for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), said field staff have already received reports of black bear activity in North Bend, Issaquah and Chelan County.

“Black bears usually emerge from their dens in mid-to-late April, but warm weather can cause them to stir earlier,” Beausoleil said. “Whatever the timing, black bears are hungry when they emerge from their dens, because they lose up to half their body weight during hibernation.”

Natural foods are scarce this early in the year, so bears often start looking for the easiest source of high-protein food, he said.

For that reason, Beausoleil strongly recommends that people take steps to avoid attracting black bears to their home. Particularly in areas known to attract bears, that means securing garbage cans, removing backyard bird seed and not leaving pet food outdoors.

“If people would control these three bear attractants, the number of bear-human conflicts would be reduced significantly,” he said.

Last year, WDFW officials responded to 444 situations involving bears, ranging from raids on garbage cans and birdfeeders to confrontations with pets.

“Bears are naturally wary of humans, but they can overcome that fear when they are rewarded with food provided intentionally or unintentionally by people,” he said. “Situations involving bears that have learned to associate food sources with people often end badly for the bear.”

Two new state laws went into effect last summer that prohibit leaving food or food waste in places where it can attract bears and other wild carnivores. Intentional feeding can bring a fine of up to $1,000, or $87 for feeding that is unintentional but “negligent.”

Human conflicts with bears tend to subside by mid-summer, when berries and other natural foods become available, and then pick up again in fall before the animals enter their dens, Beausoleil said.

Beausoleil advises taking the following steps to prevent conflicts with bears:

  • Never intentionally feed bears or other wild animals.
  • Keep garbage cans in a garage or another secure area until collection day.
  • Remove pet food from areas accessible to wildlife.
  • Take down birdfeeders until winter.
  • Thoroughly clean barbecue grills after each use.
  • When camping, keep a clean campsite by thoroughly cleaning all cooking utensils after use and sealing uneaten food in airtight containers stored in bear-proof canisters away from sleeping areas.

More information about how to avoid conflict with bears is available on WDFW’s website

LYNNWOOD — The PAWS Wildlife Center is letting us know that spring is coming — and what better way to gauge that then watch some sleepy bears rouse themselves after hibernating all winter.

The center’s rehabilitation staff create a darkened bear run for the youngsters every year so that they can go into hibernation, but it’s not as easy as it sounds.

“Imagine trying to get a room full of kindergartners down for nap time — there’s always one or two kids that just won’t go to sleep?”, says PAWS Naturalist Kevin Mack. “That pretty much describes it.”

This year the center is hosting seven different cubs rescued from various locations throughout the Northwest. During their time at PAWS, the cubs get a chance to grow large enough to survive on their own in the wild while also learning social skills from other cubs. If all goes well, the bears will be returned to the wild this spring and summer, PAWS said.