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Bear aware: Scavenger sightings on the rise in Snoqualmie Valley vicinity
Coming face to face with a black bear was the last thing Preston resident Jason Lofquist thought would happen when he took out the garbage on a recent summer night.
Grabbing a stick, Lofquist managed to scare off the bear, which has been spooking residents in his neighborhood for the last three months.
“You can’t scare them away,” Lofquist said. “Once they come out, stay around and get into the garbage, they don’t go away.”
Bear sightings are growing increasingly common in Valley neighborhoods. This year, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife staff say they didn’t get the break in reports that they usually get between spring and summer.
Two weeks ago, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife handled 40 bear calls in the Puget Sound region.
“The trend here is not a positive one,” said Bill Hebner, enforcement captain for WDFW’s Wildlife’s Region 4. "It's usually bad news that we get this many calls. This tells me people aren't being as careful as they need to be."
When black bears encroach on human neighborhoods, it's always because they're attracted by food or the smell of something edible.
Residents who leave out unsecured garbage, pet food, bird feeders, or leave fallen fruit from trees on the ground may encounter scavenging bears.
Controlling these attractants is important, Hebner said, so that bears do not become conditioned to equate food sources with people. Such animals lose their fear of humans, resulting in a bigger problem.
"They become aggressive—that's why pets and humans are at risk," Hebner said. "Often, it results in us having to respond, and many times lethally removing the animal, which is a shame because it's not the bear's fault—it's the bear doing what nature tells him."
Hebner advises residents to make sure to pet food is securely put away, garbage cans are locked and orchard fruit is cleaned up.
Some residents use bungie cords to seal garbage cans. Others spray ammonia to throw off the scent of trash.
If a bear's presence is spooking your pets, Hebner suggests banging pots and pans. The racket will let nears know they are not welcome in your yard.
Hebner emphasized eliminating attractants like food smells that bring bears into neighborhoods.
"This cycle needs to stop," he said. "Everyone needs to be aware."