Don’t Feed the Bears

Maggie Dean | | Post Tag for BrainsBrains
This fatty bear is clearly getting his share of garbage. Photo: Heather Reich

Interacting with bears is dangerous and illegal and can result in fatal consequences for the animal involved. Every summer, Departments of Wildlife around the country receive hundreds of calls relating to bears: bears getting in the trash, bears breaking into cars and homes, and complaints of tourists baiting the animals. Many of these problems could be prevented if locals and tourists alike followed some basic rules regarding food and garbage in the summertime.

Bears live in nearly every mountain area in the United States. These bears come out of hibernation each summer, looking to gain some weight after their long nap. The animals cannot resist the smell of food and garbage. Bears will break into cars, homes and destroy trash cans and campsites to find something as small as a candy bar wrapper. That is why it is important for everyone in areas where bears live to handle their trash and food properly.

bear, trash
Many Tahoe locals will recognize this legendary photo of a bear drinking from a Pepsi bottle from 2007, proving these funny creatures will stop at nothing to enjoy a treat from your garbage. Photo: Chad Lundquist
  • Never leave food out for a bear or any other wild animal.
  • Do not leave food or food-related garbage in your car. Also, lock your car (but you should be doing that anyway).
  • When camping, be sure to properly secure your food and trash to the campground’s specifications. Campsites may ask you to leave if you leave garbage or food out.
  • If you live in an area where there are bears, get a bear box or other bear-proof trash can.
  • If you encounter a bear, be cool.

Whether intentional or not, feeding a black bear in any capacity can result in a hefty fine and the animal being euthanized. It is against the law in most areas where bears live to store garbage improperly; typically, breaking these ordinances results in a citation and fine. On the bear’s end, some Departments of Wildlife will put down bears that they deem to be problematic (and yes, dumpster diving is enough to be classified as problematic). If those reasons alone aren’t enough, it is also worth mentioning that bears are dangerous animals and can certainly kill you.

Interacting with bears is bad for you and the animals. Although most of the time, bears function as oversized raccoons that knock over your trash can, everyone should avoid the situation altogether by being smart when it comes to your food and garbage in the summertime.

We know it’s illegal to feed the bears, but what about a friendly wrestling match? Photo: Robert Dean

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2 thoughts on “Don’t Feed the Bears

  1. I once encountered a bear on my hike through Stovall Park. Was a black bear, an absolute unit. Adrenaline may have distorted my ability to accurately judge its height but it looked to be closing in on 6 feet. Remembering my Boy Scout days I remembered the first thing to do during an encounter is to make myself look bigger. I quickly tucked my shirt into my pants and tightened the belt a few notches. I then began to puff large amounts of air into my shirt to essentially double my width. After taping my collar to my neck to trap the air I again referred to my scout training (step 2) – challenge the bear. After shouting god knows what into the sky the bear became wary of my presence – it was working. Finally, step 3. Climb the nearest tree (bears are too big to support their own weight while climbing). I happened to be near a fifty footer, absolute unit. Scaled it with ease. After establishing alpha status of the environment the bear realized the battle was not worth it and trotted away. However, I had to call the local fire department to help me get down from the tree (fatigue). The local newspaper took my picture after I got down, inflated shirt and all. The picture and newspaper clipping are still hanging on my refrigerator to this day.

  2. How is interacting with a bear illegal ?
    I have had many interactions with bears
    And every one was a natural occurrence
    Some were bears breaking into my garage or the neighbors trash, others were just a part of living in the mountains , interacting with bears is not a bad idea . If you spend any time in the mountains , hiking or camping you will encounter a bear. It’s just what happens in the high mountains . The author needs to do a little more research on the subject and not sensationalize the subject, it is true most people are unaware that they are creating a garbage bear , but I have experienced many interactions and I still think it’s the coolest thing ever to see a bear.
    It’s only dangerous if you act like an idiot
    And don’t use common sense.

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