Feeding bears will get you in trouble with the law

6:44 am November 5th, 2012


By Bob Brown


It is doubtful many people are aware of two new state laws that went into effect last June. The laws prohibit the intentional or unintentional leaving of food or food waste in places where it can attract bears and other wild carnivores.

One of the laws subjects anyone who intentionally feeds or attempts to feed bears and other carnivores to a fine of up to $1,000. The other law authorizes a fine of $87 for anyone who negligently feed or attempt to feed those animals.

Mike Cenci, deputy Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife police chief, said, “This is the time of the year when bears are looking to build up as much fat as possible to get through the winter. Putting food scraps out for them or leaving garbage cans or pet food exposed is an open invitation for them to pay you and your neighbors a visit. While black bears rarely attack people in the wild, they can pose a danger to public safety if they become accustomed to humans. When this happens it can present some tough choices for wildlife officer responsible for managing those animals. Too often, relocating a bear that has learned to scavenge people’s left over food results in just moving the problem some where else. When that happens, we often have to destroy those animals. Food is involved virtually every time wildlife officers respond to a call about a bear sighted in a neighborhood. To that end, the new laws are designed to encourage people to take more responsibility for that situation, both for their safety, and for the welfare of the bears and other wildlife.”

People can avoid feeding wild animals unintentionally by:

• Securing garbage and compost, particularly when bears have been reported in the area.

• Removing attractants such as bird feeders.

• Keeping pet food and pets inside or otherwise secured.

• Cleaning barbecue grills.

It has been estimated approximately 30,000 black bears inhabit Washington and are the most common species of large carnivores within its borders. Bears eat both meat and vegetation, increasing the likelihood they will be attracted to human food, pet food and garbage. Cougars and wolves will also scavenge for food, but more often they prey on other animals, wild and domestic.


Yard waste welcomed by wildlife


It is the time of the year when many home owners are involved in garden and yard cleanup that often includes pruning trees, shrubs and other plants. While the resulting debris can be be an annoyance to some homeowners, for many species of wildlife it can be an unexpected windfall. It is a source of food and shelter during the difficult fall and winter seasons that lay ahead and an important ingredient helping wildlife contend with those conditions. Russell Link, WDFW biologist, is suggesting it might not be a bad idea for home owners to moderate the clean-up task.  Link said “Right now many birds and other wildlife species are using the seeds and fruits of hawthorn, maple, ninebark, mountain-ash, Oregon grape, evergreen huckleberry and other species.”

Link suggests homeowners leave dried foliage, seed heads and some grasses uncut, as many of those annuals and perennials keep their seeds into winter and harbor insects many birds feed upon throughout winter. If you clean and prune in the fall try leaving cut vegetation around the plant as mulch and to hold seeds and over-wintering invertebrate eggs and larvae. Also consider adding branches and twigs to an out-of-the-way brush pile which creates its own habitat. Timing is everything. Pruning trees and shrubs are best for plants when they are shutting down for the season. Delaying that traditional fall chore until late winter is best for wildlife.”


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