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Bears raid garbage in Idaho, prompting wildlife safety efforts

The remaining garbage after black bears find unsecured garbage at a residence in Ketchum.
The remaining garbage after black bears find unsecured garbage at a residence in Ketchum.

Wood River Valley (Idaho Fish and Game) - A black bear sow with two cubs has been getting access to unsecured residential garbage in the Greenhorn Gulch area in the Wood River Valley, causing concerns about the bears quickly becoming food-conditioned. First reported on Saturday, June 15, a local homeowner reported many security camera alerts from bears hanging around his house.

A black bear sow and two cubs found a food reward from an unsecured garbage cart at a Wood River Valley residence.

While at the home, the sow and her two cubs gained access to an unsecured garbage cart in the driveway of the home. 

ish and Game officers investigated and found signs of the bears around the home with a large amount of residential garbage, some of which had been eaten on by the bears.

Fish and Game canvased near-by homes to provide safety information and to ask homeowners to secure their garbage in their garages until the morning of pick-up. 

To help prevent black bears from becoming food-conditioned anywhere in the Wood River Valley, it is the responsibility of every resident to secure their garbage in a garage or locked shed. 

Fish and Game will continue to monitor the area in an effort to proactively discourage the bears from remaining around area homes looking for unsecured food sources, such as household garbage. 

Mike McDonald, Regional Wildlife Manager, provides this advice, “When bears are accessing residential garbage that means every resident needs to change their behavior to keep bears from becoming food conditioned. We urge all Wood River Valley residents to do their part by securing their garbage in a locked shed or garage. It is our priority to keep our residents and visitors safe and our wildlife wild.”

While a bear can quickly learn to associate a food-reward with a residential garbage cart, it is extremely difficult to change that behavior once learned. The solution is to never let a black bear discover it and then learn that a garbage cart is a place to find food. In the case of the sow and her cubs, the cubs are now learning the negative behavior of a food-conditioned bear.

“It’s pretty straight-forward” according to senior conservation officer Brandyn Hurd, “keeping residential garbage out of reach of a bear can significantly reduce the chances of a bear becoming food-conditioned. We all know the end result when a food conditioned bear becomes a public safety issue. Our goal continues to be keeping bears from becoming habituated to garbage and other attractants at campgrounds, cabins and residential neighborhoods.”

To keep Wood River Valley bears wild, remember these important steps:

  • Keep all household garbage secured in a garage or other enclosed area.
  • Put your garbage cart curbside on the morning of pickup, NOT the night before.
  • Leftovers or discarded fish or meat bones give off a strong odor and should be stored in your freezer until the day of garbage pickup.
  • Keep attractants, like B-B-Q grills, bird seed or pet food stored where bears cannot access them.
  • Bird feeders should be taken down May through October since bears can gain a tremendous number of calories from bird seed.

Your actions to keep food away from bears will keep you, your neighbors and your pets safe by not creating a food-conditioned bear, which could help save the life of the bear.  Additional resources on how to eliminate attractants and keep bears wild can be found at the Wood River Wildlife Smart communities’ website

For more information about how to live responsibly in bear country, contact the Magic Valley Regional Office at (208) 324-4359 or your local Fish and Game office.

Article Topic Follows: Idaho

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