Spring weather has arrived earlier than usual in many parts of the state, prompting state wildlife managers to expedite their annual warning about avoiding conflicts 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 Issaquah, North Bend 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.
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 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.
WDFW offers more information for residents living in and near black bear habitat.