Keep Bears Wild Program


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Feb 15, 2002
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DFG News 7/20/2004 4:14:40 PM
Department of Fish and Game

Contacts: Doug Updike, Senior Wildlife Biologist, (916) 445-3652
Lorna Bernard, DFG Office of Public Affairs, (916) 653-0991

All Around California, Responsible People Can Help Keep Bears Wild

Many of Californias estimated 35,000 black bears are out and actively foraging for food. And if those humans living or visiting in bear country arent responsible, it can only spell trouble for bears.

The best advice to people who either live or recreate in bear country is to remove, or pack up tightly, anything that might attract a bear, said Doug Updike, California Department of Fish and Game (DFG) senior wildlife biologist.

People need to be cautious with garbage, dog food, and charcoal grills because bears have a tremendous sense of smell, he said. Once a bear learns to associate humans with food it may lose its natural aversion to people and become a nuisance or threat. That ultimately amounts to a death sentence for the animal, said Updike, who is the statewide bear program coordinator.

Keeping bears and other animals wild is one of the main objectives of Keep Me Wild, the DFGs award-winning public education campaign that provides tips on how to avoid attracting wildlife to human sources of food. By following the steps outlined below, people can avoid attracting wildlife to their campsites or homes.

Bears have been making steady appearances in some of Lake Tahoes neighborhoods, for example, and according to DFG Capt. Dennis DeAnda, Many of the animals are up to their old bad habits. DeAnda said this season is off to a busy start with his Sacramento Valley-Central Sierra Region office receiving up to a dozen calls a day about problem bears.

Its actually a people problem, DeAnda said. The majority of these calls involve folks not being proactive about properly securing their trash cans, feeding their pets inside, and keeping their barbecues clean.

Many people reside in or visit the Tahoe Basin to be closer to nature. While living in the mountains and co-existing with wildlife, its our obligation to do our part to keep animals wild, DeAnda said. The only way to encourage bears to make a living on their own natural forage is by discouraging them from coming onto our properties after an easy food source.

This summers bear problems in Tahoe are far from over. A short winter and low rainfall may mean less natural forage is available for bears. The same is true for other areas of the state, including the southern Sierra Nevada. If people make it easy for bears to turn to unnatural food sources, the result will be more problem bears.

Another trouble spot for bear problems has been Madera County and in particular the resort town of Bass Lake, said DFG Lt. Hal Beeler. Over the last two years, however, there has been a decrease in bear incidents around the lake. Beeler attributes this recent trend to DFGs Keep Me Wild campaign and the passing of county ordinances leading to the use of bear-proof trash containers.

Beeler said he does not want Bass Lake to revert back to its old reputation of having bear problems. But with a possible lack of forage and bears already appearing in Bass Lake campgrounds, this summer poses an even greater challenge to see if the towns residents and visitors can avoid attracting bears to their food and trash.

All it takes is responsible people to keep bears and other animals wild, Beeler said.

What to do if you live in bear country:

Make your property safe by keeping garbage out of reach and smell of bears, or use bear proof
garbage and compost containers.
If you have pets, do not store their food or feed them outside.
Bring all bird feeders in at night.

What to do if camping in bear country:

Choose a safe campsite away from any bear sign.
Separate cooking and sleeping areas.
Sleep in a tent.
Cook just the right amount of food and eat it all.
Store food and garbage out of reach of bears.
Never feed bears.
Keep food odors out of the tent.
Leave the campsite cleaner than you found it.

For more information on how to keep bears wild, log on to

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