By RHEA-FRANCES TETLEY – Staff Writer
Bears live within our forest but our interactions with them do not need to be negative. The bears are a natural part of the forest’s ecosystem and, since humans have decided to live in the forest, humans must learn to peacefully coexist with them and the other forest critters.
Most times, negative interaction is the result of humans having accidently lured the bears into the living areas of the community. These inadvertent behaviors by humans sometimes lead to negative interactions with the bears.
“People have a responsibility to the wildlife whose habitat they are sharing,” says the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (DF&W). “Anything that is edible or smelly will attract a bear.”
Last week, there were two well-documented sightings of two bears. One male black bear with a white chest was tagged on both ears and wearing a radio collar so it has had previous official contact. It was spotted this week in Top Town, Valley of Enchantment and the Cedarpines Park areas of Crestline. What seemed to have attracted him were trash cans and bird feeders. The tagged bear was seen on decks and near homes, attacking a bird feeder and trash cans. At this writing, it was still in the area and being videoed by Ring cameras.
The smaller bear, obviously still a juvenile, was found apparently killed by a car in the Skyland area of Crestline. There was trash strewn all over the street around it, so it must also have been seeking food in trash cans. Because of its smaller size, it was likely to have a mother bear nearby.
Mother bears keep their cubs with them for about one and half years while the cubs are taught how to survive; then they are abandoned and left to fend for themselves. It is those yearling bears, as they try to explore the world and seek easy food, that tend to come near the communities. They must be discouraged from foraging in trash cans and being in the neighborhoods.
“A bear’s behavior will not stop voluntarily; the food sources must be removed,” says the DF&W.
The popularity of the Ring security camera systems has unfortunately led some people to try to attract bears for photos, enabling them to show off on social media. Some short-term rental owners have been known to attract and then show off local wildlife in their ads to encourage bookings. Attracting bears ultimately leads to their death. “A fed bear is a dead bear,” is a well-known DF&W truism.
Bears have a keen sense of smell, which attracts them from miles away to explore those scents. Smells that attract bears are trash cans with food residue, bird feeders, suet, pet food left out, greasy uncleaned barbecues, baked goods left on windows to cool or other delicious smelling foods that exit out a kitchen’s exhaust vents.
Disinfecting trash cans with ammonia or spraying them with pine-scented cleaners often, and washing the cans out with bleach regularly, will encourage bears to go elsewhere. These actions are especially important when bears have been seen in the area, as they dislike those smells.
Bears are intelligent and, once they learn an area’s trash pick-up schedule, they have been known to arrive on trash day to see if people are careless in the way they dispose of their trash. To remove meat smells, freeze meat discards before disposing of them and only put trash outside on the morning of trash pick-up. This is especially important information for those with short-term rentals because those units need trash pick-up immediately after the tenant leaves, not leaving the trash for pickup several days later.
If you find a bear in your trash, use bear spray and an air horn to scare him away. If confronted by a bear in your yard, don’t stare at them; stand tall, yell and throw small stones near him, but not at it. If possible, spray them hard with a garden hose or use a super soaker water gun filled with water and vinegar and bang pans together to scare them away. Make that bear feel very unwelcome, but do not attack them, as they outweigh you. Never try to outrun a bear as that triggers their chase instinct and, despite their large size, they can run up to 35 miles per hour when chasing, and they can climb trees faster than humans can.
If you come upon a bear in the wild, back away slowly and, although they prefer to not have a confrontation, they may still be dangerous, especially a mom with cubs. Allow them space to avoid you; do not corner them. When they are frightened, bears will climb trees and will not come down while humans and dogs are present.
Homes with koi and other ponds with fish make the bears believe they are in their own habitat, as do fruit-bearing trees and berry bushes, which are a part of their natural omnivore diet; 80 percent of a bear’s diet in the wild is plant based.
Around your home, be sure there is no under-the-house crawl space for bears to sleep or they may remember it as a potential hibernation location. Also, motion detector lights discourage bears from walking through yards at night; if those don’t work, consider a motion-activated sprinkler or electric fencing wires, if the problem is persistent.
Other good suggestions are to not leave food and half-eaten fast food and wrappers in a car overnight; bears have been known to break into cars by ripping off the doors to get to the smelly items. Also, vacation homes only used occasionally should not store aromatic food items in the house as that may also attract bears. Bears are strong and can easily break though doors or windows to get to attractive smelling food, especially when humans are not nearby.
When there is a bear problem in an inhabited area, such as bears causing damage to property, contact the DF&W. They do not relocate bears, but will suggest proactive ways, many mentioned above, for the humans to stop attracting the bears. Unless the nuisance behaviors can be corrected, the DF&W will eradicate the problem bear.