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May-16-2008 05:58printcomments

Oregon Town has a BIG Problem - Hungry Bears

Biologists say the bears went into hibernation late and came out early to take advantage of easy food sources.

florence bear
A bear out in broad daylight last month across the street from offices in the city of Florence after it killed a homeowner’s chickens.
Photo courtesy: ODFW

(FLORENCE, Ore. ) - The Oregon coastal town of Florence seems to have one BIG problem on it's hands. BEARS!!

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife says it has logged nine complaints so far about bears in and around the town of nearly 22,000.

Last month, a bear killed a homeowner’s chickens and was later photographed in broad daylight across the street from offices — unusual behavior because bears tend to avoid humans. A second bear and its young cub attempted to break into a woman’s house. A bear den was uncovered near a school playground last year.

This year’s complaints started weeks earlier than usual and are more frequent. Biologists have also noticed that bears are heavier than usual for this time of year, suggesting they went into hibernation late and came out early to take advantage of easy food sources.

In all of the complaints, the bears creating problems are being fed by humans, either intentionally or unintentionally. ODFW District Biologist Dr. Douglas Cottam has witnessed this problem for years in Florence and fears for the worst.

“Bears that become habituated to people are usually the ones involved in attacks on people—and they often must be put down to protect public safety,” warns Cottam. “I implore the residents of Florence and other communities to stop feeding bears, intentionally or accidentally, for the safety of both your neighbors and for wildlife.

The old adage is too often true, “a fed bear is a dead bear,” continued Cottam. “Euthanizing a bear because humans have misbehaved is something I hate to have to do. Please, stop the feeding so I don’t have to put down any more bears.”

Feeding wildlife in a way that impacts public health is also a violation of a Florence city ordinance.

ODFW does not relocate bears habituated to humans because of human safety concerns. Research has shown that relocating troublesome bears does not work. Individual bears have been known to travel long distances to return to their original home range. Even if a relocated bear stays away from its original home range, it often will seek human foods in its new area or move to an area where human foods are available. As a result, if ODFW has to trap a bear, the bear will likely be euthanized.

If you care about bears, take the following steps to prevent problems from occurring:

1. Remove all food attractants. Don't leave food unattended.

2. Bears are creatures of habit and will return to spots where they have previously found food. They also have a keen sense of smell and will travel long distances to reach an easy food source.

3. Take in all bird feeders at night, including hummingbird feeders, and sweep up any seed on the ground. In areas where bears are a problem, avoid feeding birds during the summer months.

4. Keep all garbage inside your house or closed garage, and only place it outside just before garbage pick-up. Use bear-resistant garbage cans.

5. If bears have previously ransacked garbage cans, clean cans with hot water and bleach or ammonia to remove odors. Double bag all garbage. Use of ammonia-soaked rags in and around the cans may repel bears.

6. Keep all pet food and livestock feed inside the house or garage.

7. Use three strands of low-cost electric fencing as an easy way to deter bears from fruit trees, compost piles, beehives and garbage cans.

8. Clean up barbecue grills and store them inside.

For more information on living with bears, call a local ODFW office for a copy of the brochure Guidelines for Living with Bears, or visit the ODFW Web site at

If bears are a problem on your property or exhibit aggressive behavior, call the nearest ODFW office, Oregon State Police office or the Sheriff’s department.

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