For Washington Bears, Spring Is Here!

Washington Dept. of Fish & Wildlife, Bear Hunting Magazine

Spring weather has not arrived in the midwest yet, but it has arrived earlier than usual in parts Washington state. Because of the warm weather, state wildlife officials wanted to expedite their annual warning about avoiding conflicts with black bears.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) stated that field staff have already received reports of black bear activity in North Bend, Issaquah and Chelan County. Usually they do not come out of their dens until mid-to-late April, but the warm weather caused them to stir earlier. And now they are out looking for food.

Natural foods are scarce this early in the year, so bears often start looking for the easiest source of high-protein food. Hikers and hunters who may be out scouting should make sure to take steps to avoid black bears and continue to be aware of their surroundings at all times. Home owners should also secure garbage cans, remove backyard bird seed and not leave pet food outdoors.

Last year, WDFW officials responded to 444 situations involving bears, ranging from raids on garbage cans and birdfeeders to confrontations with pets. In 2011, they responded to 523 incidents involving black bears.

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 unintentional but "negligent."

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