Several residents have reported sighting bears in recent days in Monroe, including one that has been raiding garbage in the Farm at Woods Creek area.
One family reported on Facebook Saturday night that they had been watching TV with the sliding door open when they heard a crash and saw a black bear running away from their tipped-over garbage can.
That post resulted in a number of comments from others who had also noticed bear activity recently.
Near Mero Road, one woman reported three bears frequently roaming in her neighborhood.
Another person noted that there had been talk of a bear sighting near Chain Lake Elementary over the weekend.
Then Monroe resident Jill Singleton posted a picture of a black bear that she had taken Sunday at Al Borlin Park.
“Kind of scary, yet cool at the same time!” she said.
According to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, here are the best practices for protecting your home and family in bear country:
If you live in areas where black bears are seen, use the following management strategies around your property to prevent conflicts:
Don’t feed bears. Often people leave food out for bears so they can take pictures of them or show them to visiting friends. Over 90 percent of bear/human conflicts result from bears being conditioned to associate food with humans. A wild bear can become permanently food-conditioned after only one handout experience. The sad reality is that these bears will likely die, being killed by someone protecting their property, or by a wildlife manager having to remove a potentially dangerous bear.
Manage your garbage. Bears will expend a great amount of time and energy digging under, breaking down, or crawling over barriers to get food, including garbage. If you have a pickup service, put garbage out shortly before the truck arrives—not the night before. If you’re leaving several days before pickup, haul your garbage to a dump. If necessary, frequently haul your garbage to a dumpsite to avoid odors.
Keep garbage cans with tight-fitting lids in a shed, garage, or fenced area. Spray garbage cans and dumpsters regularly with disinfectants to reduce odors. Keep fish parts and meat waste in your freezer until they can be disposed of properly.
If bears are common in your area, consider investing in a commercially available bear-proof garbage container. Ask a local public park about availability or search the Internet for vendors.
Remove other attractants. Remove bird feeders (suet and seed feeders), which allow residue to build up on the ground below them, from early March through November. Bring in hummingbird feeders at night. (Better yet: plant and bird-friendly landscape and don’t use feeders.) Harvest orchard fruit from trees regularly (rotting fruit left on the ground is a powerful bear attractant). If you have bear problems and do not use your fruit trees, consider removing them. Do not feed pets outside. Clean barbecue grills after each use. Wash the grill or burn off smells, food residue, and grease; store the equipment in a shed or garage and keep the door closed. If you can smell your barbecue then it is not clean enough. Avoid the use of outdoor refrigerators—they will attract bears.
Protect livestock and bees. Place livestock pens and beehives at least 150 feet away from wooded areas and protective cover. Confine livestock in buildings and pens, especially during lambing or calving seasons. Livestock food also attracts bears and must be kept in a secure barn or shed behind closed doors. If bears are allowed access to livestock food, they may learn to feed on livestock. Immediately bury any carcasses or remove them from the site.
Install fences and other barriers. Electric fencing can be used where raids on orchards, livestock, beehives, and other areas are frequent. Electric fencing only works, however, if it is operating before conflicts occur. Bears will go right through electric fencing once they are food-conditioned and know that food is available.
Bears can be lured into licking or sniffing the electrified wire by rubbing molasses, bacon grease, or peanut butter on the fence.
Bears can be dissuaded from climbing a tree by attaching 4-foot long, 1 x 4 inch boards with 2-inch long wood screws screwed all the way through them every 6 inches. (To prevent the board from splitting, drill pilot holes.) Attach at least four boards around the trunk of the tree using strong wire.
Use temporary scare tactics. Bears can be temporarily frightened from a building, livestock corral, orchard, and similar places by the use of a night light or strobe light hooked up to a motion detector on a tripod, loud music, or exploder cannons. The location of frightening devices should be changed every other day. Even so, over a period of time, bears will become accustomed to them. At this point, scare devices are ineffective and human safety can become a concern.
Wildlife offices throughout Washington respond to bear sightings when there is a threat to public safety or property. A sighting or the presence of a bear does not constitute a threat to property or public safety. Typically, no attempt will be made by a wildlife agency staff to remove, relocate, or destroy the animal.
Problem bears can be live trapped by specially trained wildlife professionals and moved to more remote areas; however, such removals are expensive, time consuming, and seldom effective. (Once a bear has tasted human food or garbage, it will remember the source and return again and again—bears have been known to return over 100 miles to a human food source after having been relocated.) Using tranquilizing drugs on bears to facilitate removal is not without risks to bears and humans.
When other methods have failed, lethal removal of problem animals may be the only alternative.
Contact your local wildlife office for additional information and, in the case of an immediate emergency, call 911 or any local law enforcement office, such as the state patrol.