Bears gone wild
July 11, 2012
By Michele Mihalovich
Meeting to educate residents about living with bears, new laws
Before Snoqualmie Ridge became a business hub and housing development, it was acre after acre of Weyerhaeuser timberland — a virtual smorgasbord for bears.
But apparently the bears didn’t get the memo about them no longer being welcome.
Every year, Snoqualmie Police and state Fish and Wildlife officers receive a plethora of calls from residents reporting bears in their yards, in their neighborhoods, tearing up their garbage, snacking out of their birdfeeders.
One man at Alice Lake, just west of Snoqualmie Ridge, was joined in his garage a couple of weeks ago by a hungry bear interested in his garbage cans.
Megan Miller, who lives on Cascade Avenue, found a mother and two cubs ripping through trash in her fenced-in backyard June 22.
Becky Munson, spokeswoman with the Snoqualmie Police Department, said police received the first call March 27, “and then it really ramped up in June.”
As of June 30, the department had received 26 calls about nuisance bears, which she said was about the same number as this time last year. Munson also said she expected the calls to continue through August.
However, wildlife officers said many of those calls could be eliminated with a bit of education, which is why a community meeting on bear etiquette is being scheduled for 7 p.m. July 17 at the Snoqualmie Fire Department.
“The problem in Snoqualmie Ridge is that people there are just not bear smart,” said Chris Moszeter, a state fish and wildlife officer.
He said 90 percent of the issues are people not securing garbage cans and continuing to keep birdfeeders in their yards.
“Bears are kind of lazy,” he said. “If people are not securing their garbage cans in the garage, they are basically just offering a 96-gallon buffet to the bears.”
“This is an annual, ongoing struggle,” Brian Kertson, a fish and wildlife researcher, said. “We have to get folks to change their behavior to minimize conflicts with bears.”
He said birdfeeders will attract bears and aren’t needed this time of year.
“In the wintertime, that is a perfectly fine time and we encourage that because birds do rely on the food. But right now, it’s best to just take them down,” Kertson said.
Moszeter is sympathetic to the people who don’t have garages.
He said there are about five affordable, cottage-style housing complexes that don’t include garages.
“They have no way to secure their garbage,” Moszeter said, adding that the homeowners associations at several of the complexes have vetoed the use of bear-proof, community trash bins.
“It has been very frustrating for me, as normally, securing the food sources solves most bear issues,” he said.
Waste Management, which just took over garbage services in Snoqualmie at the beginning of June, had promised to have bear-proof containers available to customers for an additional $3.13 per month.
Moszeter said he’s been hearing that those cans aren’t yet available.
Robin Freedman, director of communications for Waste Management in Washington, said so far the company has received 10 requests from customers for the 96-gallon, bear-proof containers.
The cans were being tested and produced, and Freedman said they should be delivered this week.
New this year is an enforcement tool for wildlife officers.
Beginning June 1, officers are able to fine people who feed or attempt to feed large wild carnivores, or who negligently attract large wild carnivores by not securing their garbage.
Moszeter said the community meeting will also address the new law, and the possible $87 fine.
If you go
- Community meeting — bear smarts and the new law
- 7 p.m. July 17
- Snoqualmie Fire Department
- 37600 S.E. Snoqualmie Parkway
The Snoqualmie Police Department, state Fish and Wildlife Department and Waste Management will address the community about bear problems, bear-proof containers, and discuss a new law that took effect June 1.