Aug. 31, 2019 — The summer is slipping way and, as output from wild plants and berries decrease, the number of sightings and actual encounters with the area’s hungry, wild neighbors is on the rise.
Jason Kirchner is the District Wildlife Biologist for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) and his office, in conjugation with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Oregon State Police, reports that these agencies have recently killed four bears in the Florence area.
Additionally, one homeowner shot and killed a bear that was on his property attacking his dog.
“These were all aggressive bears and they had no fear of humans,” Kirchner said. “We have had bear safety issues in Florence and Dunes City all summer. A bear went in a house twice in Dunes City, opened sliding glass doors and ate pet food and other food items in the kitchen. Another bear in Dunes City had a confrontation with a Labrador Retriever in the homeowner’s yard, then did damage to personal property along the side of the house. The homeowner shot and killed this bear. In the north Florence area, five bears were seen in a resident’s yard. These bears were breaking into their garage multiple times, tearing apart the door. The resident attempted to haze the bear away and also shot at the ground near the bear to scare it away, but it showed no fear of humans. The bear also charged at the resident then grabbed the homeowner’s small pet dog and carried it off.”
The number of incidents where direct contact between humans and bears occurs infrequently, as bear have a great sense of smell and usually avoid humans. There is, however, a seasonal element to these meetings, which are often centered around food.
There are some basic strategies suggested by ODFW and the USDA to minimize the chances of a dangerous, or even deadly human/bear interaction.
If you encounter a bear, stop. Never approach a bear at any time for any reason and always give it space. Remember to leave any bear you encounter a way to escape. Walk away slowly and step into the house or garage. Then wait and watch out windows for the bear to leave.
It is also important to stay calm. Do not run or make sudden movements. Face the bear and slowly back away. Don’t make eye contact with the bear and don’t run, which could encourage the bear to attack you.
In the unlikely event you are attacked, fight back. The best way to scare a bear is to shout and be aggressive, use rocks, sticks and hands. Do not attack the animal. Making noise as you are walking through the woods also reduces the risk of surprising a bear and always keep children close by and in sight.
Perhaps most importantly, never feed a bear. Keep garbage, pet food and barbecues secure, and clean up fruit tree droppings and compost piles to avoid attracting bears. Also, feeding other animals, such as birds and squirrels, will attract bears.
One other tool to consider, in order to make it safely through a bear encounter, is to carry and learn how to properly use bear spray.
“Having bear spray is an effective tool if a bear approaches too close or charges,” Kirchner said. “Spray into the mouth, nose and eyes of the bear, then leave the area to a secure structure such as a house or car. Bears are active at all hours of the day, but likely encounters can occur during dawn and dusk and at night.”
The public does have the right to protect itself from animal attacks and to avoid property damage from wildlife. The killing of a bear on private property is legal under most circumstances, with permission of the property owner. However, there is some required documentation when this type of culling occurs, and the required information to be filed can be found at the ODFW website.
There are also reporting requirements for all state employees that find themselves in a situation where they kill a bear, or other dangerous animals, according to applicable Oregon statue.
Any regional office of the State Department of Fish and Wildlife ordering the disposal of an animal under subsection (3) of this section is required to file a report with the State Fish and Wildlife Director within 30 days after the disposal. The report shall include, but need not be limited to, the loss incurred, the financial impact and the disposition of the animal. The director compiles all reports received on a bimonthly basis and these reports are available to the public upon request.
The Florence City code is also clear on this matter.
Florence City Code 6-6-070: Feeding Wild Animals Prohibited:
“No person shall scatter or deposit any food or other attractants on public or private property with or without the intent of attracting and/or feeding wild animals, including, but not limited to, bears, seagulls, crows, pigeons, raccoons, feral cats, wild rabbits, rodents, coyotes and deer. Leaving food outside for any purpose, including for the purpose of feeding domestic animals and pets, in a place where wild animals can access it is a violation of this section if the food in fact becomes an attractant for wild animals.”
Take the following steps to protect people and bears:
The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has a page dedicated to bear safety practices and requirements for filing the necessary paperwork when a bear, or other wild animal is killed, for more information go to www.dfw.state.or.us.