Wildlife officials urge caution after bear sightings near Sedona

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A bear was found roaming around Sierra Vista on Thursday, Aug. 30. By Jennifer Thomas A bear was found roaming around Sierra Vista on Thursday, Aug. 30. By Jennifer Thomas

SEDONA, Ariz. -- The Arizona Game and Fish Department is cautioning outdoor enthusiasts to be "Bear Aware" following a flurry of bear sightings in the Boynton Canyon area near Sedona.

While the most recent reports have been of a female with cubs, it is believed there are a number of bears around the area.

"This is simply cautionary," said Shelly Shepherd, public information officer for the Game and Fish Region 2 office in Flagstaff. "The public needs to understand bears are active and some caution should be taken whenever people are in the wild."

Shepherd said bear sightings in the area are not unusual, but warned that bear behavior can be erratic, especially when a female is with its cubs. She also said bears can quickly become habituated to a public setting as a result of human behavior, such as providing free-standing water or an easy food source.

"A fed bear is a dead bear," Shepherd said. "People who feed wildlife, intentionally or unintentionally, can definitely compound any potential problems. Animals, such as bears, will come to town for an easy handout."

Black bears are common and widely distributed in Arizona. They can be found in all of the Sky Island mountains of southeastern Arizona, throughout the Mogollon Rim and into the White Mountains, and in the central mountain parts of the state.

Fur color varies, including black, brown, cinnamon and dark blond. Bears weigh between 125 and 400 pounds with males being larger than females.

For those who do encounter a bear, Shepherd provided some suggestions:

• Don't run. Running elicits a predatory response. If you run, a bear might instinctively want to chase and catch you.

• Stay calm.

• Continue facing the bear and slowly back away.

• Pick young children up off the ground.

• Speak loudly or yell and let it know you are human (don't scream).

• Make loud noises by banging pans, using air horns, or whatever is available.

• If attacked, fight back.

• Never get between a female bear and her cubs.

For more information about black bears and how to avoid conflicts with wildlife, visit www.azgfd.com.