For the week of April 28, 1999  thru May 4, 1999  

Bears want food

Express Staff Writer

Sunny skies and climbing temperatures mean outdoor play and fun for valley residents. They also mean it’s time for local black bears to welcome spring with a quest for food.

Bears are currently awaking from their winter hibernation, a sleep that leaves them ravenous. Already, they have begun to invade bird feeders and trash cans in the Warm Springs, West Ketchum, Gimlet and Greenhorn Gulch areas, Idaho Department of Fish and Game conservation officer Lee Frost said Friday.

Frost is advising valley residents to clean up their yards, take down bird feeders and make sure trash cans are not accessible to bears or other animals.

"It’s time, particularly in areas where people have had bears in the past, to bear-proof," Frost said. "If not, it becomes a very long and frustrated summer because it’s a constant fight."

Bear-proof trash containers are available through Wood River Rubbish, Frost pointed out.

In addition, Fish and Game is trying something new this spring that should give bears a negative experience when they visit valley homes in pursuit of an easy meal.

Rubber bullets and rubber buckshot, loaded into 12-guage shot guns, will be fired at invading bears’ hind quarters.

"What we’re trying to do with this is get on top of it very quickly and hopefully deter some of (the bears’ unwanted) behavior early," Frost said. "The good thing about this is that the bear is not removed from its home territory, and that is very important for the bear.

"All we want it to do is sting. If you can’t get a shot at the hind quarters, you don’t shoot."

Frost supplied the Ketchum police department with some of the rubber bullets and buckshot as well. The police are often the first people on the scene of a bear call, Frost said.

Other wildlife-related calls are also beginning to pick up. Beavers are starting to gnaw on landscaped trees. Red foxes are beginning to hunt—sometimes killing domestic pets—to feed their young pups. And skunks are becoming extremely active.

Also, the area’s largest mammal, the moose, is going to have calves soon, and back-country travelers should be careful, Frost warned.

"It’s a major critical time to stay away from moose," Frost said. "A female moose with young calves is an incredibly aggressive creature. It’s good to avoid moose all the time but particularly in May and June."


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