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Produced & Maintained by Idaho Mountain Express, Box 1013, Ketchum, ID 83340-1013 
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Copyright © 2002 Express Publishing Inc.
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For the week of April 10 - 16 , 2002


Preventative measures key to avoiding wildlife conflicts

Spring awakening under way

Express Staff Writer

As temperatures climb, the Wood River Valley’s wild neighbors are waking up, and the Idaho Department of Fish and Game is recommending that the region’s human inhabitants prepare accordingly.

Photo by Willy Cook

"It’s time to start thinking about babies, bears and beavers," Idaho Department of Fish and Game Conservation Officer Lee Garwood said. "With just a little tolerance and ingenuity, we can co-inhabit."

Garwood replaced Lee Frost as one of two Wood River Valley conservation officers when Frost retired last fall.

He said local black bears are waking from their winter-long slumbers and looking for food. Skunks and foxes are searching for denning sites, which could include the undersides of decks or home foundations. Beavers are out looking for new food sources, and more than willing to gnaw on ornamental trees. Great horned owl, which are among the first to nest in spring, may already have chicks learning to fly. Occasionally, one of the fledglings lands in a back yard and may appear to be helpless.

"This is really rural Idaho," Garwood said. "Animals have always been here. They’ll probably be here when we’re all gone."

To avoid conflicts with the valley’s wildlife, Garwood recommended a few doses of preventative maintenance.

"It’s time to take bird feeders down. It’s time to start thinking about how we feed our pets," he said.

Photo by Willy Cook

Wild animals—particularly bears, skunks and raccoons—take advantage of meals made easily accessible by people. Bird feeders, unsealed trash cans and pet food are some of the most common incentives for bears and other wild creatures to pay visits to homeowners.

And once animals discover an easy meal, they remember where they obtained it.

"Once they’re habituated, it’s difficult to break them," Garwood said.

Fish and Game elaborates on preventing bear visits in its "Living with Wildlife" informative brochure.

"While bears may look cute, they can be very dangerous. If a bear visits your home, remove all possible food sources to discourage it from staying. If it persists, contact a regional Fish and Game or county sheriff’s office."

Spring is also the best time of year to avoid summer-long conflicts with skunks and foxes, both of which are abundant in the Wood River Valley and seek nesting sites early in the spring.

"They’re looking for quiet, dark places that don’t get a lot of disturbance," Garwood said.

Those places include cracks in home foundations and the undersides of porches—but both are places that can be sealed for a couple of months to avoid unwanted conflicts later in the summer.

"It’s a lot easier to keep them out to begin with," Garwood said.

Additionally, he said he anticipates a number of phone calls from river bottom residents losing trees to beavers this spring. It’s another contest that’s easy to avoid.

"Beavers come with living there," he said. "All you have to do is wrap your trees with fencing or suspend a wire about 5 inches above the ground along the length of the river bottom on your property, and attach it to a 12-volt battery."

Young owls, which are learning to fly, often jump from their nests too soon and may land in a resident’s back yards during spring. Lifting young owls off the ground and placing them on a low limb of a tree is an acceptable method of getting the youngsters out of harm’s way.

"They’ll be flying within a day or two," Garwood said.

With preventative measures taken at home, it should be easier to get out and enjoy sharing the valley’s abundance of wild creatures.

Great horned owls can still be heard calling at night. Foxes and coyotes are common sights. And bear sightings are relatively easy for patient observers.

"This time of year is a good time to see bears," Garwood said. "Just slow down from your hiking and look a little bit."


The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.