IDAHO FALLS — The Idaho Department of Fish and Game euthanized an adult male black bear June 23 after it had become food-conditioned and habituated to humans. Multiple sightings of the bear getting into garbage and poking around cabins in the Mack’s Inn area of Island Park occurred over the past several weeks.
“The bear had become accustomed to finding food rewards from humans and no longer showed fear of people,” says Bear Biologist Jeremy Nicholson with F&G. “It started peeking in peoples windows during the daylight hours and made no efforts to avoid humans.”
With thousands of campers, anglers, and hikers venturing outdoors, the potential for human interactions with bears is on the rise. Fish and Game encourages people to be mindful of their food and garbage and make sure it is inaccessible to bears. The same cautions apply to homeowners in bear country.
“Human safety is always our number one priority,” says Nicholson. “Unfortunately if a bear gains access to human food sources and becomes habituated to humans as this one did, relocation is not an option and the only way to ensure human safety is by removal of the bear.”
Bears can travel great distances while switching from spring to summer foods when berries and other natural foods become scarce. During their travels, improperly stored attractants such as food and garbage may become appealing.
Campers can help avoid most conflicts with bears by practicing the following:
- Keep a clean camp. Pick up garbage and store it in a closed vehicle or in a plastic bag tied high in a tree.
- Store all food enclosed in a bear-resistant container, camper or vehicle – never keep food in your tent. Some national forests in Idaho even have specific food storage regulations, so check before heading out.
- Do not bury food scraps or pour cooking grease or anything that might be tasty on the ground or into the fire pit. Also, stow barbecue grills or other smelly cooking gear inside your vehicle. Bears have a tremendous sense of smell and they will come looking for an easy meal.
- If you see a bear, watch it from a distance and leave it alone. Black bears are not usually aggressive, but the danger may increase if a bear loses its fear of humans.
- Keep garbage in bear-resistant, latchable containers. Keep garbage in a closed building until the morning the garbage will be picked up.
Homeowners can avoid most conflicts with bears by practicing the following:
- Empty and remove bird feeders during the summer months. Songbirds are able to forage on food provided by nature. Bears find that bird feeders are an easy food source. If you hang a hummingbird feeder make sure it is suspended at least ten feet high and at least four feet away from your home.
- Clean up fruit that has fallen from fruit trees in your yard. In addition to bears, rotting fruit will attract raccoons and skunks.
- Feed pets inside or during daylight hours; do not leave pet food or food scraps outside of your home or camp.
- Table scraps and pet foods make a great attractant for bears.
- Store horse and livestock grains inside closed barns.
- Composting in bear country is not advised. Decomposing organic materials will attract bears.
- Chicken coops have grown in popularity with rural dwellers and bears love them too. Electric fencing has proven to be an effective method for stopping bears.
- Keep barbeque grills stored in closed buildings.
Fish and Game deals with most nuisance bear complaints from July through September when bears are traveling in search of food. Bears will eat almost anything, including human food, garbage, birdseed, and pet and livestock food. Bears that become conditioned to raiding these food sources can lose their natural fear of people and can become nuisances or even threats. Live trapping and moving a bear does not always solve the problem, and bears often will need to be euthanized. That is why biologists often say a fed bear is a dead bear.