The first time I came face-to-face with a bear, I was hiking behind my house in Show Low. I did something really stupid, but the impulse was so strong, I couldn’t help myself; I ran as fast as I could. I can’t begin to count the experiences I’ve had with bears since then. Years ago, Arizona Game and Fish offered a class on bears at Fool Hollow Lake. My husband and I attended hoping to learn more about their habits. The instructor said he had been at his job for over twenty years and had never seen a bear in the wild. I left wondering how much attention he paid to his surroundings.
We liked to watch hummingbirds in our backyard. Early one morning I glanced out the window and noticed a large bear swinging from the bungee cord that secured the feeder to the rafter of our deck. Another time, I watched as a bear chased my husband into our garage. Believe me when I say they can run really fast. The only thing that saved my husband was the garage door coming down that momentarily startled the bear.
One summer evening, a bear decided he was going to come into our house. He started by standing upright and looking in the window of my husband’s office. We opened the front door and made lots of noise hoping to scare him away. Undeterred, he methodically made his way around the entire house looking into each window. Once was not enough and he circled again.
We called Game and Fish. They told us they were not able to come out right then (something about it being almost midnight) and to call the police. They were busy as well. The next morning, the bear was still holding us hostage in our home so the police decided to send the SWAT team. When the bear snuck up behind one of the officers, he jumped into his car mumbling something about not being paid enough to do this and drove away.
Game and Fish brought a bear trap baited with raw meat and parked it in our driveway for a few days. The bear took the bait and the trap door slammed shut. Did you know that the noises of an angry bear sound distressingly human-like? The bear was tagged and released about ninety miles away. In less than a week, he was back. He was tagged in the other ear and hauled away again in the opposite direction. The next time it returned, it was euthanized. This broke my heart and I realized the truth to the saying “A fed bear is a dead bear”. The chow came from seemingly innocent sources; easy access to garbage cans, bird feeders and pet food.
Here are some helpful tips from the Arizona Game and Fish website regarding bears.
- Alter your route to avoid a bear in the distance.
- Make yourself as large and imposing as possible if the bear continues to approach. Stand upright and wave your arms, jacket or other items. Make loud noises, such as yelling, whistles, and banging pots and pans.
- Do not run and never play dead.
- Give the bear a chance to leave the area.
- If the bear does not leave, stay calm, continue facing it, and slowly back away.
- If a bear is in your yard, scare it away from inside the house, keeping the door closed.
- Don’t feed or give water to black bears. Be aware that human behaviors, such as feeding other animals, can attract black bears.
- Feed your pets inside or remove uneaten pet food between feedings.
- Remove garbage regularly or keep in secure buildings.
- Remove other enticing food sources, such as birdseed, hummingbird feed (sweet liquid), fruit from trees or shrubs located near buildings.
- Fences, lighting and dogs have not been found to be effective, long-term deterrents.
If you notice the dumpster lid is open, take a moment to close it. Easy access to food is the primary reason you will find a bear lingering in the Village. Stay safe and enjoy your summer.