For the week of August 4, 1999  thru August 10, 1999  

Bear invades Bitterroot Road

Express Staff Writer

This black bear, which has been exploring residential neighborhoods around Trail Creek, was captured on film behind a Bitterroot Road home Monday morning. (Express photo by Willy Cook)

Residents of Bitterroot Road in the city of Sun Valley, along Trail Creek, awoke to a peculiar sight yesterday morning. The road was littered with trash from about half a dozen trash cans.

The Wood River Valley is rife with wildlife, and that means the valley’s human inhabitants need to share the land with wild animals. It also means wild animals will try their hardest to share valley residents’ food as a return gesture.

This summer, like others, black bears are scavenging local trash cans, bird feeders and any other potential food sources in search of easy meals.

One bear in particular is creating messes in Sun Valley and Ketchum along Trail Creek.

Monday morning, the bear was discovered in a tree behind the home of Joy and Vince McGuinness. The bear remained there for about two hours, eventually strolling away.

Though the bear hasn’t caused any property damage or personal injuries, it succeeded in plucking bird feeders from trees and turning Bitterroot Road into a trash-laden obstacle course Tuesday morning—the city of Sun Valley’s garbage pick-up day.

Sun Valley police Chief Cam Daggett said the bear has been in and out of Sun Valley and Ketchum, along Trail Creek, for the past two weeks.

Last Thursday, a bear that was presumably the same one from Tuesday’s Bitterroot Road trash can escapade tried to get into a bird feeder behind the Ketchum Korral motel. Ketchum police responded to a phone call, which alerted them to the bear’s presence in the residential area. Ketchum police chief Cal Nevland said it was a large, full-grown black bear.

Idaho Department of Fish and Game conservation officer Roger Olson said that unless a bear causes destruction to property or causes personal injury, it is Fish and Game’s policy to let nature take its course.

That means those who live along Trail Creek should take extra precautions. They should keep their trash indoors or put it in bear-proof trash cans, which are available from Wood River Rubbish. Bird feeders should be taken down and pet food should not be left outside.

Olson said reports of bear incidents this summer have come from the Warm Springs area, Ketchum, Sun Valley, East Fork and Greenhorn Gulch. It boils down to one simple fact: Where there are people in central Idaho, there are reports of bears.

Fish and Game does occasionally capture problem bears in a specially designed bear trap. The trap is made from an old metal road culvert. When a bear enters the trap to go after planted bait, a spring-loaded door closes behind it.

One such trap is currently set up on Warm Springs Road. Several weeks ago, a bear entered a Warm Springs home through a window, left its excrement on the home’s floor and promptly left, Olson said.

Olson said a bear that enters a home is certainly deemed a problem, although the baited trap has not yet yielded any captures.

Bears are unpredictable, Olson said. Sometimes they will hang around a neighborhood and then leave, not returning for several weeks.

According to Fish and Game conservation officer Lee Frost, bears are easily habituated and will, once they find easy access to food, return year after year. Black bears are essentially non-aggressive to humans but will protect their cubs and food, he said.

Their diet is 99 percent vegetarian and the main attraction for them in residential areas is trash, pet food and bird seed from feeders. If those three things are made inaccessible to the bear, Frost said, it doesn’t necessarily mean a bear won’t come, but it does lessen the likelihood of a problem.


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