Drought has bears looking for food before winter, wandering into - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Drought has bears looking for food before winter, wandering into suburban & urban areas

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A close-up of the bear in the tree in north Spokane Friday morning A close-up of the bear in the tree in north Spokane Friday morning
SPOKANE, Wash. -

Friday morning, a black bear was discovered hanging out in a tree in north Spokane. The bear spent hours up there as a crowd of onlookers became more and more curious. Eventually, officer from the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife showed up, tranquilized the bear and then relocated him. Fish and Wildlife said the bear appeared to be around 2-years-old. Officers tagged him so that if he ever returns, they'll know about it. 

What would bring a bear into such a populated area?

Madonna Luers with the Department of Fish and Wildlife says they are seeing bears come into neighborhoods more than usual this year because the drought in Washington has left food sources scarce for bears as they are trying to fatten up for the winter, which may cause some of them to wander into areas they might normally not. 

Officials in Idaho say they are seeing the same kind of incidents

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks officials say they've seen 14 bears die this year in collisions on Interstate 90, Highway 10 and Highway 200. The bears in Montana are also searching for food after an early berry season in the mountains came to an end. 

What can you do to help prevent bears from wandering into your neighborhood? 

Luers says basically don't leave an easy meal for them out. You might think this means "don't leave your picnic basket in your backyard", but actually this refers to things like bird feeders, gardens and garbage cans, too. Bears have an excellent sense of smell and will track down whatever you leave out. 

Luers warns that feeding the bears is a bad idea. Bears have evolved to adapt to severe conditions, including droughts where food supply may be limited. However, if someone is feeding them, they can become a danger. "A fed bear" becomes a "dead bear" when wildlife officials have to lethally remove a bear that can't be relocated because he is now used to people feeding him and would most likely return to a residential area for food. 

For more information, check out the Department of Fish and Wildlife's October Newsletter that talking about crossing paths with a bear. 

If you plan on hiking in the wilderness, the DFW has a few bear 'Do's and Don't's" to abide by. 

Do's and Don'ts in Bear Country

To avoid encounters with black bears while hiking or camping:

Keep a clean camp. Put garbage in wildlife-resistant trash containers.

Store food in double plastic bags and, when possible, place the bags in your vehicle's trunk or in wildlife-resistant food lockers. Double-wrapped food may also be placed in a backpack or other container and hang it from a tree branch at least 10 feet above the ground and 4 feet out from the tree trunk. Never store food in your tent.

When camping, sleep at least 100 yards from your cooking area and food storage site.

Hike in small groups and make your presence known by singing or talking.

Keep small children close and on trails.

If you come in close contact with a bear:

Stay calm and avoid direct eye contact, which could elicit a charge. Try to stay upwind and identify yourself as a human by standing up, talking and waving your hands above your head.

Do not approach the bear, particularly if cubs are present. Give the bear plenty of room.

If you cannot safely move away from the bear, and the animal does not flee, try to scare it away by clapping your hands or yelling.

If the bear attacks, fight back aggressively. As a last resort, should the attack continue, protect yourself by curling into a ball or lying on the ground on your stomach and playing dead.

The Department of Fish and Wildlife responds to cougar and bear sightings when there is a threat to public safety or property. If it is an emergency, dial 911.

If you encounter a cougar or black bear problem, and it is not an emergency, contact the nearest regional Department of Fish and Wildlife office between the hours of 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. In King County, the number to call is (425)775-1311.

If you need to report a non-emergency problem when Department of Fish and Wildlife offices are closed, contact the Washington State Patrol or nearest law enforcement agency.

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