Numerous bear sightings and activities and bear attacks have recently been reported by officials in various regions of the U.S. and Canada.
Today’s post focuses on Tonto National Forest in the Payson, Arizona area.
Arizona authorities have now killed three bears in Tonto National Forest after three attacks on three people since May 31. Since 1990, there have now been a total of 10 confirmed bear attacks within the state, KPHO-TV, Phoenix, reported.
Game and Fish Department officials said two packs of hound dogs picked up the scents (June 24) of two bears near the Ponderosa Campground, east of Payson, site of the recent attacks.
A male American black bear was found one mile below the campground and a large adult female was found in Hellsgate Wilderness.
The hounds chased the bears into trees and officials fatally shot both bears.
The third bear was killed by Game and Fish ground crew.
Authorities said they are conducting tests on the dead bears to ensure they are the ones involved in the non-fatal attacks.
Tonto National Forest officials have temporarily closed all six campgrounds in the Payson ranger district until at least July 15 because of the bear attacks. They recommended campgrounds in the Coconino and Apache Sitgraves national forests for people who desire to camp.
The black bear, which is the only bear species found in Arizona, is considered the least aggressive of North America’s bears. Black bears are normally shy, bashful animals that seek solitude in densely vegetated areas.
Although the black bear population in the state is estimated to be near 3,000 animals, bears are rarely seen and when they are spotted, they typically run from humans.
That typical bear behavior though can be altered by the influences of humans, and those bears can become dangerous and problematic.
Bears that become accustomed to and unafraid of traffic, noise, and human activity, and particularly those that begin to associate people with food sources, are more likely to become involved in a human-wildlife conflict. A bear that enters a campground has already demonstrated habituation, and even a small bear can overpower an adult.
The family of the most recent bear attack victim, who was attacked June 24 while camping at Ponderosa Campground, asks campers and outdoor recreationists to take precautions when camping outdoors in bear country, Cerbat Gem reports.
While the investigation shows that the victim had taken the proper precautions to secure his food and garbage, Arizona Game and Fish Department officers believe that the bear responsible for the attack had already been habituated and conditioned to people and came to expect to find food or garbage in human-inhabited areas.
“Game and Fish is asking the public to do their part to keep bears wild and afraid of humans by not being complacent with food sources and garbage bins in areas where bears are known to live,” said Brian Wakeling, game branch chief and a wildlife biologist with extensive experience with black bears.
“We ask all residents and visitors to Arizona to take personal responsibility to not only protect yourself and your family, but to help minimize the chances that human behavior could change a bear and create a future public safety threat.
Drought conditions are likely a reason more bears, are coming into campgrounds in search of food.
Campers are reminded to take the following precautions to minimize bear encounters.
- DO NOT be a contributor to food-conditioning
- Keep your campsite clean; store food items and trash away from your tent or RV
- Store food in air-tight containers in RV or car trunk
- Keep food waste and garbage in a secure bear-proof container
- Never leave cooking utensils, coolers, grease, or dish water lying around the campsite
Other potential food attractants include pet food, uncleaned BBQs, and even orchard fruit on the ground. The food odors attract bears that have a very keen sense of smell. Even an empty food wrapper can attract a bear from a long distance.
If you do encounter a bear, try to scare the bear away by making yourself look as large as possible, making loud noises and throwing objects towards it. Do not run. In the rare event of a black bear attack, fight back aggressively.
Remember: A Fed Bear is a Dead Bear
In many cultures, the bear was looked upon with such reverence that members of the culture were not allowed to speak the word for “bear “. Instead, they referred to the animal with varied and creative euphamisms. Several names were used by the Navajo and other native groups—Fine Young Chief, He Who Lives in the Den, and Reared in the Mountains.