Photo: Barbara Woodmansee
Grizzly bears once roamed much of the North American wilderness by the tens of thousands, from the Great Plains to the California coast. But by the 1970s only about 400 bears remained, living in less than 2 percent of their historic range.
Today, even as the species begins to recover, humans are the greatest threat to grizzly bears. Suburbs, highways, campgrounds, ranchlands and garbage dumps are now part of the landscape in grizzly country. Yet when these animals are found near humans and tempted by the smell of our food, this all too often results in bears being relocated or killed.
Thankfully, whether you live in grizzly bear country or are just visiting, there are simple actions you can take to help keep bears safely out of trouble.
Dispose of my garbage properly
I’ll put garbage and recyclables out for collection in bear-resistant containers or store in a secure building, garage or shed until the morning of pick-up.
Be careful when cooking and eating outside
I won’t leave any food or beverage (even unopened cans), including those in a cooler, outside on a picnic table or on a screened porch. I will bring all dishes, containers, utensils and uneaten food inside when I’m finished eating, and secure coolers in a bear resistant manner and thoroughly clean grills after each use.
Keep my car food-free
I won’t leave trash, groceries or animal feed in me vehicle. Bears can learn to pry open car and truck doors and break windows to get at food or coolers and other items they associate with food.
If I’m camping or hiking in an area where bears might be, I will carry bear spray and know how to use it. While bears aren’t likely to bother me, it’s always best to be prepared with this effective option that can keep me safe and not result in a dead bear.
Bears and Chickens Don’t Mix
Chickens and chicken feed are irresistible to bears and other predators. If I choose to have chickens in bear country, I will contain the chickens, chicken coop and feed within a bear-resistant electric fence. Feed can also be stored in a secure building or shed that bears cannot access.
Vegetable gardens, especially those containing potatoes and root vegetables like carrots and beets, can attract bears. If I have a garden, I will consider bear-resistant electric fencing. Flower gardens are not as attractive to bears as long they don’t contain sweet vetch, dandelions or clover. I will never use blood meal as a fertilizer or deer repellent in any type of garden.
Feed Birds Carefully
I won’t put out any type of bird feeder during the period bears are most active: March through the end of November. Birds don’t need supplemental feeding at this time anyway I’ll consider a birdbath or birdhouse instead. Regardless of the time of year, I will store all birdseed indoors.
Be a good neighbor
I will talk to your friends, family and neighbors about how to be bear aware. When an easy meal is no longer accessible at one house, bears move on to the next, so I’ll encourage your neighbors to take similar steps to keep bears out of trouble.
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