Pima County, Ariz. (Aug. 12, 2011) - Forest Service spokeswoman Heidi Schewel issued a warning Thursday to people in Pima County, advising them to be on the lookout for bears. In a news release, she said this year “has become a year of particularly high bear activity, sightings, and interactions with humans,” because of widespread drought and wildfires in the Coronado National Forest.
“In an effort to protect both human and bear populations, forest officials encourage increased vigilance regarding bear safety practices,” she said.
Included in the warning are tips for keeping bears from coming too close in residential areas of the county. Here’s what she advises, based in part on recommendations from the USDA Forest Service:
- Never store food or garbage outdoors. Always keep food or garbage cans in a secure place bears cannot access.
- Always bring pet food inside, especially overnight.
- Do not feed birds from April to November, unless the feeders are out of bears’ reach and have spill pans to prevent seeds from reaching the ground.
- Keep outdoor grills clean and when not in use, store them inside a garage or building.
- Dispose of food scraps in a garbage can that bears cannot access and never leave food as bait for any animals.
- If a bear approaches, move your family indoors immediately.
Schewel also has tips for county residents or visitors who hike, picnic or camp in or near the forest:
- Let someone know where you are going and when you plan to return.
- Hang food, garbage and anything with strong odors (toothpaste, bug repellent, soap, etc.) at least 10 feet off the ground and 4 feet from a tree or limb; use special food storage boxes and cable systems if available.
- Eat and cook food up to 100 yards away from the tent.
- Do not take clothes used while cooking inside a tent.
- Avoid camping and hiking alone in backcountry.
- Make noise to avoid surprising a bear.
- Never approach a bear or other wild animal. If a bear approaches you, back away slowly; do not run.
- Avoid hiking in the dark. Hiking in the dark increases the chances of encountering a bear.
- Carry Environmental Protection Agency registered bear pepper spray.
- Pack trash out, do not bury it.
- Keep children close at hand, and avoid taking pets – they may attract bears.
- Watch for bear signs: scat, claw marks, digging, logs or stumps torn apart.