The Main Stream

Aug 6, 2012 1:59 PM

Bear warnings for residents of Sierra Vista

SIERRA VISTA - An increase in bear sightings in Sierra Vista has Arizona Game and Fish Department asking residents there to be more "bear aware" and take precautions.

One of more bears has foraged a dumpster, trash cans and a freezer since Wednesday in a residential area south of Vista Grande at the mouth of Miller Canyon.

Last month, a young male bear was treed for nearly ten hours in a residential area along Hereford Road east of Highway 92 after being seen roaming the community that morning. The bear climbed down and left the area after dark. Another young male bear in that area was successfully captured, transported and released elsewhere July 27.

Both communities are near the Huachuca Mountains burned by the Monument Fire last year. Habitat impacts caused by the fire, coupled with two consecutive dry winters and intermittent seasonal rains, may be the causes of the increased sightings.

Game and Fish officials say it's important for area residents to secure their garbage inside until the morning of pickup and keep pet food inside, among another precautions, to help ensure against bears coming into conflict with humans.

Bears in search of food are often attracted to homes and into proximity with people. This close contact puts both humans and bears at risk. Most conflicts are the result of people unintentionally feeding bears, most often through access to household garbage, bird feeders, garden areas or trees bearing fruit.

"Fed bears can lose their fear of humans and begin to associate humans with food, sometimes causing property damage and even injuring people. But conflicts between humans and bears are preventable," according to Regional Supervisor Raul Vega of Game and Fish in Tucson.

Since garbage stored outside is the biggest attractant, storing garbage in a secure garage or shed until the morning of collection will virtually eliminate the chances of a bear visit. If a bear does not find a food source, it will move on. Fences, lighting and dogs have not been found to be effective, long-term deterrents when foods are available. Bears are good climbers, so to reduce a bear's ability to get over a fence, it should be at least six feet tall and constructed of non-climbable material.

Recognizing the potential risk to both humans and bears, the Arizona Game and Fish Department spends considerable time and money each year relocating bears. Some bears must be destroyed because they are considered too dangerous, have lost their fear of humans, or continue to get into conflicts with people. Following removal or relocation, the homeowner might experience more problems from a different bear if the identified attractant is not eliminated. Relocating a bear is also traumatic for the animal and does not guarantee it will live. Some are killed by larger, older bears that have established territory in an area.

If a bear is in your yard or neighborhood and refuses to leave, immediately contact the Game and Fish office at: 520-628-5376 or at 1-800-352-0700 evenings, weekend and holidays.

Depending on what the bear is doing, department personnel may respond if it remains in the area.

If you see a bear in the distance, alter your route to avoid it. On the rare occasion that a bear approaches you, discourage it by:
• Making yourself as large and imposing as possible.
Stand upright and wave your arms, jacket or other
items, and make loud noises.
• Do not run and never play dead.
• Give the bear a chance to leave the area.
• If the bear does not leave, stay calm, continue
facing it, and slowly back away.

The black bear is the only bear species found in Arizona. Although fur color varies and includes brown, cinnamon and blond, they are all considered black bears. It is the smallest and most widely distributed North American bear.

Bears are classified as big game animals in Arizona and are protected by state law. It is unlawful to feed wildlife, including bears, in Pima and Cochise counties. Violations can result in a fines ranging from $300 in Pima County to $2,500 in Cochise County.

Attached photo by Mark A. Hart, Ariz. Game and Fish Dept.: Black bear treed in Hereford on July 17 before climbing down and leaving area.

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