When a black bear appeared multiple times in the Crystal Ridge and Manorwood neighborhoods in Puyallup last month, the Puyallup Police Department took to Facebook to address the issue.
“He was out last night and again today,” said the May 11 post. “If you see him, call 911. Don’t bother him.”
Bear sightings are common during the spring, when bears wake from hibernation and are looking for food.
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“They show up every once in a while,” said Capt. Scott Engle, who added that in the event of of a bear sighting in an urban area, it’s the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) that responds.
But more times than not, bear sightings aren’t a public safety issue, according to the WDFW.
“They stand up and look at you,” said Kim Chandler, a sergeant for WFDW’s Enforcement Program. “That’s unnerving to see — particularly in a neighborhood that’s house to house to house to house — but it’s not a public safety issue.”
They stand up and look at you. That’s unnerving to see — particularly in a neighborhood that’s house to house to house to house — but it’s not a public safety issue.
Kim Chandler, sergeant for WFDW’s Enforcement Program
Instead, it’s strictly a food-driven behavior. The bears are hungry, and they want food that’s easy to reach. Digging in garbage, bird feeders and barbecue grills takes less energy than digging up logs or chasing down small animals, Chandler said.
“They’re looking for a quick fix,” he said.
It only takes one appearance before residents should ask themselves why the bear showed up in the first place — and to take steps to prevent it.
“They’re really smart,” Chandler said. “They know where they got their last really good meal and they’ll make the rounds and come back.”
Chandler recommends putting garbage inside garages, and putting garbage cans out for pickup early in the morning rather than late at night. And after it’s empty, it can still contain smells that can attract bears. Cleaning grills is important to get rid of attractive smells, too.
And if there’s a bear around, get rid of those bird feeders.
“You cannot leave bird feeders up in the summer months if you know you have a bear in the neighborhood,” Chandler said. “The remedy is to take it down. Help the bear and help yourself.”
You cannot leave birder feeders up in the summer months if you know you have a bear in the neighborhood. The remedy is to take it down. Help the bear and help yourself.
If residents see bears in their yard, don’t feed them, said the WDFW.
“There’s a law on the books that says you can be cited for feeding wildlife either intentionally or unintentionally,” Chandler said.
It only takes one neighbor’s open garbage or bird feeders to attract a bear to the whole neighborhood. That’s why communication between neighbors is important, said Chandler, whether through a group Facebook page, email chain or homeowners association.
It’s a common time of year for bear complaints, according to the Puyallup Police Department. Bears can be out until November, when they’re looking for more food before hibernation.