The Arizona Game and Fish Department has received a surge of calls about bears in urban areas, as bears looking for food and water wander into towns.
Statewide, the agency received 206 calls about nuisance bears last month, said Bill Andres, Game and Fish public affairs branch chief. The agency captured 20 bears and euthanized seven of them for public safety reasons.
The rest of the captured bears were relocated.
Among them were a mother bear with two cubs who was hanging out in a Flagstaff neighborhood, raiding chicken coops and garbage cans.
Game and Fish tagged the bears’ ears and relocated them to ranchland east of Flagstaff, Andres said.
That was a Sunday. By Thursday, one of the cubs turned up in Kingman, lounging on a porch but not getting into much mischief, he said.
The cub was taken to Keepers of the Wild Nature Park, a nonprofit wildlife sanctuary in Valentine, Ariz., about 130 miles east of Flagstaff.
In another case, Game and Fish euthanized a bear who was being fed by a resident near Pinetop, Ariz., the Associated Press reported. The resident received a written warning for leaving food outside.
Later, someone discovered that bear had two 4-month-old cubs, who were removed and placed at Bearizona, a wildlife park in Williams.
Bearizona has taken in four cubs this year, said Dave O’Connell, animal staff supervisor.
In both cases, a pair of cubs needed a place to live after their mother was euthanized as a result of being fed by people.
The bear cubs are healthy and active, gaining weight and climbing all over their exhibit, O’Connell said.
Why bears come to town
A bear who comes to town will learn that food is easily available in garbage cans, Andres said.
“Once a bear becomes accustomed to human food, it will always seek it out,” he said.
These bears often become less fearful of humans, protective of their food sources, and a public safety threat, he said.
Game and Fish tries to relocate bears when it can, Andres said, but bears can return to their neighborhood territories, either in search of familiar flavors or when they’re driven off by another bear defending its territory.
Recent drought means bears aren’t finding as much food in the wild as they may need, Andres said. Bears need to eat 15,000-20,000 calories a day, he said. That’s about 50 servings of pizza.
Summer is also the time when mother bears send older cubs off on their own, to find their own territory and food supplies. A lot of the bears who wander into towns are these juveniles, Andres said.
Ways to help
- Keep trash inside or in a shed until the morning of your trash pickup service. Bears are active at night, so putting your trash on the curb overnight can attract them.
- Don’t leave pet food and water outside at night, and bring bird feeders inside.
- If a wild animal looks hungry or thirsty, that’s OK. Leave it alone, O’Connell said.
- If you see a bear, try to scare it away by yelling and waving your arms, which will “help teach the bear that being around humans isn’t any fun,” Andres said.