Be 'Bear Aware!' Wildlife officials warn bear activity increasing statewide

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(Source: 3TV/CBS 5) (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
(3TV/CBS 5) -

The Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD) wants the public to be "Bear Aware," warning that bear activity is on the increase statewide.

AZGFD wildlife officers have seen an increasing number of bears frequenting neighborhoods in search of easy food and water sources. This has created a public safety threat, forcing the Department to euthanize some bears.

This has happened three times this week.

On Thursday, a bear that was aggressively attempting to enter a residence in Payson was captured and euthanized by wildlife officers. The bear had visited the home three days in a row and did not appear to be afraid of humans.

[RELATED: Bear euthanized after breaking into Payson home, AZ Game & Fish says]

Days before that, on Monday, AZGFD wildlife managers removed a sub-adult male bear from an Anthem neighborhood. The bear had previously been relocated from Prescott.

[RELATED: Game and Fish euthanized 'nuisance bear' spotted in Anthem Monday]

On Sunday, officers in the White Mountains were forced to remove a female bear feeding on large piles of food and water left by a local resident. The same female bear had been captured in Pinetop in June, 2017 and was relocated to a pre-approved release site near the Mogollon Rim. In May, it returned to Pinetop with two cubs.

A day after euthanizing the bear, neighbors told AZGFD about the bear’s two cubs. The cubs were safely located, evaluated by a local veterinarian and transferred to Bearizona in Williams.

[RELATED: Bearizona rescues 2 orphaned bear cubs]

AZGFD is keeping an eye on other nuisance bears in Show Low, Yarnell, Pinetop, Mesa and along the southern border.

The common thread among each of the incidents is that bears are looking for an easy meal and water in populated areas.

[RELATED: AZ Game & Fish predicts more bears will visit the Phoenix area]

“When a bear becomes habituated to people for food and water, it can become a real threat to public safety,” AZGFD Wildlife Manager Shawn Wagner said. “People feeding wildlife think they’re helping wildlife, but they’re putting everyone’s safety at risk — whether it’s a neighbor out walking their pet or a family out for a jog.  When a bear doesn’t get the meal it’s become accustomed to, it can attack whoever is around.”

Under department’s human-wildlife conflict policy, wildlife officers consider the bear’s behavior, age, sex and whether it’s a threat to human safety when determining when to relocate or lethally remove a bear.

The department spends considerable time and resources each year to remove or relocate habituated bears to minimize the risk to people. However, relocating a bear doesn’t always solve the problem. Approximately half of all bears relocated will return to where they were captured, no matter how great the distance.

Extended drought conditions also make it more difficult for bears to find natural food and water sources, increasing the chances that bears will visit neighborhoods. Bears become habituated to human-related food sources and quickly lose their fear of humans. As such, people should remove bird seed, hummingbird feeders, pet food and trash from their homes.

[RELATED: Young bear spotted in Mesa; officials now believe it has returned to the wild]

People should never intentionally feed wildlife.

"The public has some responsibility in this situation," said Scott Poppenburger with the AZGFD. "We encoursage people to be responsible in their feeding and remove attractants like intentional feed and even unintentional sources like garbage."

You can do your part to keep bears from posing a threat and needing to be removed:

  • Keep all trash inside a secured area until collection day. If that’s not possible, keep food waste in a bag in the freezer and place those in the trash as close to collection time as possible.
  • If you’ll be out of town or are a weekend visitor, ask a neighbor to place your trash out on collection day.
  • Take bird feeders down at night.
  • Keep pet food inside or remove all uneaten food.

Call 911 if you’re in a life-threatening situation with a bear. To report a bear sighting in an urban area or neighborhood, please contact your local AZGFD office or the department’s Radio Room at (623) 236-7201.

For a brochure on living with bears, visit any AZGFD office. Please visit: www.azgfd.com/Wildlife/LivingWith.

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