In light of a recent situation in the Tumalo area north of Bend where a black bear had to be euthanized after it became accustomed to eating garbage and pet food, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife urges people to take precautionary measures to prevent situations that lead to unfortunate outcomes between bears and people.
"Black bears are opportunistic feeders, with a natural diet consisting mainly of insects, carrion, plants, fruits and berries," said Colin Gillin, ODFW wildlife veterinarian. "They also are known to kill and eat deer fawns and elk calves in the spring when these young animals are most vulnerable." Bears may be active at any time of the day or night, but most often are seen during morning and twilight hours.
"Bears generally are not dangerous to humans," said Gillin, who before joining ODFW served at one time as Wyoming's grizzly bear biologist, "but they will forage in trash cans and eat pet food when those food sources are available. When bears are fed by people, they may become aggressive and dangerous. Bears and any other wild animals have very unpredictable behavior."
While ODFW's response to bear sightings and complaints is based on the circumstances of each situation, ODFW generally does not relocate bears that have become habituated to humans.
"Research and experience throughout Oregon have shown that relocated bears will continue to seek human food in their new location or move to an area where human food is available," said Gillin. "Bears that become habituated and conditioned to human foods become human safety concerns and leave wildlife managers with little choice but to humanely euthanize the animals." Approximately 250 bears are killed each year statewide because they cause damage to agriculture, livestock or threaten human safety.
The following precautions can be taken by individuals to avoid bear/human conflicts:
Do note feed black bears or wildlife, either by hand or by leaving out food items such as salt blocks or pet food.
In bear country, do not leave garbage outside, even if it is in a trash can, unless it is a bear-proof container. Bears easily can tip over trash cans to reach the contents inside.
Do not leave pet food outside where it can attract black bears onto porches, into kennels or into other areas where pets are kept.
Remove bird feeders at night so bears are not attracted by the smell or refrain from feeding birds if bears are known to reside near your home.
Keep grills and other outdoor cooking items clean.
Landowners who live in bear country need to be especially careful not to attract bears and habituate them to humans. Individuals who see a cub or yearling that appears to be underfed should call ODFW rather than attempt to "help" the bear by providing food, noted Gillin.
Treat and respect black bears for the wild animals they are by being part of the solution and not the problem. Unfortunately, in nearly all cases, a fed bear is a dead bear.
This is not Yogi, and he doesn't need your scraps.