It's spring, and bears are waking up from their winter slumber and leaving their dens for food.
Washington state has roughly 25,000 to 30,000 resident black bears.
What's the best way keep them out of your space and minimize conflict? Take down your bird feeder.
"It's my point one, two and three," said Dave Jones, a state Fish and Wildlife game warden in Whatcom County.
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Birds don't need your help with food this time of the year any way, Jones said.
When bears first emerge, they're looking for their first meals.
That's when your bird feeder full of seeds and high-fat suet will look like a buffet to a hungry bear.
"That protein, they love it. They're looking for a quick, easy food source," Jones said.
Other steps to take for safety in bear country, which is much of Whatcom County, include:
- Keep your garbage indoors until just before your pick-up service arrives.
- Did you just barbecue? Clean your grill when you're done, and do that each time you use it.
- Keep pet food indoors. It's a good idea to keep your pets inside at night, too.
- As for those bird feeders, including hummingbird feeders, put them away through November.
In Whatcom County, many calls to wildlife officials about bears come in from the areas around Squalicum and Stewart mountains, as well as the Maple Falls and Baker Lake areas.
More recently, a bear was seen on the edges of Bellingham last summer.
A young juvenile bear, nicknamed Barkley Bear, was wildly popular last summer thanks to numerous sightings, but wildlife officials warn that over 90 percent of bear-human conflicts are caused by bears being conditioned to associate food with humans.
So keep food away from them.
And definitely don't feed them for a chance at pictures. Bears that become what's called food-conditioned likely will be killed — by someone protecting their property, or by a wildlife manager who has to remove a potentially dangerous bear, wildlife officials said.
Additional information is online at:
- "Living with Wildlife" at wdfw.wa.gov/living/bears.html#viewing
Black Bear Outreach Project at westernwildlife.org.