People and black bears are out and (potentially) together

10:10 pm June 11th, 2012


By Bob Brown

With summer upon us and the outdoor recreation season starting, it is quite possible some visitors to our forests will have chance encounters with black bears and other carnivores. It is the time of the year when black bears, having emerged from their dens, are actively foraging for food.
Nate Pamplin, wildlife program director for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, said, “We want to remind outdoor recreation enthusiasts they are sharing Washington ’s outdoors with native animals and they need to be mindful of ways to co-exist safely with bears and other wildlife. Campers and picnickers as well as people residing in rural and greenbelt areas can follow some simple precautions to minimize chances of a problem encounter.” Black bears are noted for their keen sense of smell and anything being cooked on a campfire or grill can attract them. Other attractors are unsecured food and garbage. The latter often attracts other wildlife such as ravens, crows, squirrels, raccoons, skunks and coyotes that are looking for an easy meal. One of the most important precautions to discourage unwelcome wildlife is to keep a clean campsite, secure food and garbage and use wildlife-resistant containers where available. Also, store food in vehicles or in wildlife-resistant food lockers and never in tents, said Pamplin. If hiking is on the agenda, the department (WDFW) recommends small groups walk together and make a fair amount of noise by singing or talking. It is also recommended keeping small children in close and on the trails. The department also suggests family pets be confined or restrained in camp and when on trails to avoid chance encounters with wildlife. Black bears have an innate fear of humans and usually will try to flee when contact is a possibility; however, there have been recorded black bear attacks.
Stumbling upon a black bear can be a terrifying experience, and probably it is just as terrifying to the bear. Should an unexpected encounter occur, stay calm and avoid eye contact, which could elicit a charge. Stand up straight, wave your hands above your head, start talking loud and shouting. Do not approach the bear, especially if there are cubs present. While still facing the bear, move away backward as quickly as possible (do not run).
Statistics have shown while all wildlife can be dangerous, most conflicts with wildlife are primarily caused by inapt and inappropriate human behavior. To avoid possible altercations, visitors to the outdoors should be constantly aware of their surroundings, expect the unexpected, be respectful of the environment and use common sense at all times. Additional information on avoiding problems with bears, cougars and other wildlife can be found on the WDFWs website “Living with Wildlife”.

Changes for ADA access coming WDFW and Tacoma Power are in the early planning stages to renovate the Cowlitz Trout Hatchery/Blue Creek ADA access Site and update regulations. Currently, the site and ramp provides access only to persons who permanently use a wheelchair and maintain WDFW disability status. Due to anticipated rule change expanding access, WDFW may issue temporary authorization letters to applicants meeting the criteria for a “Lower Extremity Impairment” and who have been medically prescribed assistive devices for mobility, including, but not limited to a wheelchair, crutch, brace cane, walker or prosthesis. Accommodation forms requesting authorization to utilize an ADA access site are available by contacting Dolores Noyes, ADA program manager, at (360) 902-2349.

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