Arizona bears and your safety

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Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center is having a "Be Bear Aware" event Saturday, April 21. By Jennifer Thomas Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center is having a "Be Bear Aware" event Saturday, April 21. By Jennifer Thomas

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Spring is here and the flowers have bloomed, but that also means that the Arizona summer is right around the corner.

With that in mind, folks are starting, if they haven't already, to plan their summer vacations. Some of those vacations may include camping trips to some of Arizona's fine forests. Because of that, the Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center wants to remind people about Arizona's black bears.

Last June, a Gilbert woman was attacked and killed by a black bear while walking her dog in Pinetop. The bear was going through a garbage can when the woman encountered it. Kim Carr, education director for the Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center, wants to make sure this doesn't happen again.

Because of a bear's keen smell, they can very easily find food that campers pack. Carr recommends that you don't leave any food in your tent or near where you are sleeping. She recommends keeping it in a tightly sealed container stored in your car. Also, things like toothpaste and other toiletries can attract the bears, so keep those tightly stored, as well.

While in the forests, Carr recommends people make noise so the bears can hear you coming. She even recommends possibly wearing bells on your shoes to let bears know of your presence. More often than not, bears are more afraid of humans, than we are of them.

If a person does encounter a bear, Carr recommends not running away. She says to wait, walk slowly and see if the bear turns and walks or runs away, then you walk away in the other direction. There is also bear spray that people can buy to help protect themselves.

For more information on bear safety, the Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center is having a "Be Bear Aware" event Saturday, April 28.  For more information, visit www.southwestwildlife.org.