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Berries or birdseed: Bears don’t discriminate

This hungry little bear was rescued from a tree in downtown Kingston last year.  - Brad Camp/File Photo
This hungry little bear was rescued from a tree in downtown Kingston last year.
— image credit: Brad Camp/File Photo

 ‘Please do not feed the animals’ a message not

just for the zoo.

POULSBO — It’s a shared environment in North Kitsap, with a population twofold: people and animals.

And not just the cute, fluffy kind.

Lead district biologist for the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife Greg Shirato said with humans and nature in such close quarters, it’s not uncommon for the area’s black bears to wander into yards, many times sniffing out food left for other animals, such as birds, dogs or raccoons. The occurrences have been especially common thanks to this year’s extended cold weather, which left berries in wanting numbers.

“They’re just an overgrown raccoon,” Shirato said, adding usually they mean no harm, but lumber too close for comfort simply because “they’re hungry.” He said bears in the area aren’t a concern to livestock.

Though a sighting may startle some, he said there’s no pressing need to give authorities a call. The solution is an easy one.

“Secure garbage cans, remove outside dog and cat food, maybe even bird feeders,” he said. “People can deal with issues themselves. They’re a little more of a nuisance than anything else.”

He also recommends using the department’s Living with Wildlife Web site: http://wdfw.wa.gov/wlm/living/. The site recommends tips for living with animals from bats to woodpeckers, and includes helpful facts, information on encounters and preventing conflicts.

According to the site, of those calls received regarding an incident, 95 percent of them are due to improper food storage. It also cites uncleaned barbecues and unpicked fruit as attractors to bears. While it says installing fences or other barriers can help keep out the unwanted furry neighbors, temporary scare tactics such as night lights or strobe lights hooked up to a motion detector can frighten off the animals as well. But over time, bears will grow accustomed to them.

Such instances occurred last year, including last September, when a 200-pound black bear was rescued from a tree in a residential Kingston neighborhood.

If an animal is cited and the situation becomes an emergency, the DFW recommends calling 9-1-1 or the state patrol.

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