Bears eat plants, small animals, and pretty much anything that smells appealing – including your trash, as one of our colleague's neighbors discovered recently.
The Newcastle man had left his garbage can out for pick-up the next day, but found it knocked over and the contents strewn around the driveway and street the next morning. His security-camera footage identified the culprit: a hungry bear, looking for a quick meal (see screenshot at right).
Bears tend to avoid people, but aren't afraid to wander through rural or suburban neighborhoods and scavenge for food. (In just the last week, we've heard from homeowners who've reported bear sightings in neighborhoods in Issaquah and North Bend.)
Your best bet is to rid your yard of the things that attract bears (and which tend to also attract raccoons, rats, and other hungry critters):
- Garbage: Make sure your garbage cans have tight-fitting lids, and keep them in a garage or another secure area until shortly before the truck arrives – not the night before.
- Fish/meat waste: Keep it in your fridge or freezer until you can dispose of it properly.
- BBQs: Make sure you thoroughly clean grills after barbecuing.
- Pet food: Don’t feed your pets outside – keep their food dishes indoors.
- Birdfeeders: Take down seed and hummingbird feeders until winter.
- Ripe fruit: In the fall, clean up fallen apples and other fruit.
And if you've toyed with the idea of leaving out food for bears, hoping to see or snap a photo of them up close – DON'T! Not only is it dangerous for you (do you *really* want to come face-to-face with a hungry bear?), wildlife experts warn that it's not good for bears to start associating food with humans.
For more tips on living with wildlife (including info on avoiding bears while camping), check out the Departments of Fish & Wildlife in Washington and Oregon.