Fall is the time when the Wood River Valley's wild residents look to put on a few extra pounds in anticipation of the coming winter.
Area residents need to keep that in mind and realize that wildlife such as moose and bears will increasingly be found in areas frequented by people this time of the year, said Lee Garwood, a Fish and Game conservation officer based in the Wood River Valley. That especially includes riparian areas along waterways such as the Big Wood River and lower Warm Springs Creek.
In those sorts of places, residents should keep an eye out for black bear encounters, Garwood said. In the fall, bears face declining sources of food, coupled with the pressing need to put on as much weight as possible. The bear that arrives near town and turns to human food does so because "it's a lot easier to walk through lower Warm Springs and dumpster dive," Garwood said.
To discourage human/bear and other unwanted wildlife interactions, Garwood recommends that Wood River Valley residents:
· Wait to place garbage cans out at the curb until the morning of trash pickup.
· Secure garbage cans within garages when they're not in use.
· Close garage doors to keep wild animals away from trash.
· Bring pet bowls and pet food inside once pets have been fed.
· In the fall, forego the use of bird feed, which can attract wildlife, including bears.
· Report bear sightings in populated areas to the Idaho Department of Fish and Game.
Garwood said he hasn't received many wildlife-related complaints from residents this summer, but things could change this fall if people aren't careful enough. And in the event that cold weather doesn't arrive soon, bears may delay hibernating, he said.
"I was still getting bear calls in November last year," Garwood said.
In the case of moose, Garwood said residents should keep in mind that fall is their breeding season, or rut. In all cases, he said, people should avoid close encounters with moose.
"The moose always gets the right-of-way," he said.
Garwood said fishermen encountering moose at their favorite fishing holes should "go find another place to fish that day."
Very infrequently, moose will view dogs as a threat and turn on them, he said. If that happens, he advised hikers to immediately remove themselves from the situation and let their pet fend for itself.
Despite the attraction of witnessing wildlife up close, people should never feed them, Garwood said.
"They just don't need it," he said. "They can survive just fine on natural food."
Habituating wildlife to human food takes away their wildness and brings them into closer and often detrimental contact with people, Garwood said.
"The animal's just taking advantage of what's offered to them," he said.