Arizona Game and Fish Wants State to Be Bear Aware

Arizona is getting beary interesting. According to the Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD), there has been a statewide increase in bear activity. Due to this influx of wildlife, the organization urges that Arizonians become more “Bear Aware.”

During this increase of bear activity, reports of the animals walking through neighborhoods in search of food and water have seen an uptick. This past week alone, one bear tried to get into a Payson-based home on three separate occasions. Each time, the bear did not exhibit any semblance of fear when it came to human interaction.

Due to this aggressive behavior, the AZFGD unfortunately had to euthanize the animal.  As bears become a public safety threat, the AZGFD will have to continue this practice. In order for the AZFGD to effectively determine which bears to relocate and which to euthanize, the organization weighs factors such as the bear’s age, behavior, and gender.

As Shawn Wagner, AZGFD Wildlife Manager, explained, “When a bear becomes habituated to people for food and water, it can become a real threat to public safety. People feeding wildlife think they’re helping wildlife, but they’re putting everyone’s safety at risk — whether it’s a neighbor out walking their pet or a family out for a jog.  When a bear doesn’t get the meal it’s become accustomed to, it can attack whoever is around.”

While relocating is an option, that doesn’t mean the bear won’t travel miles, returning to familiar areas. Other instances of bear sightings this week saw some bears get relocated that had already been removed from other parts of the state. Earlier in the week, wildlife managers relocated a male bear (who had already been relocated from Prescott) out of a neighborhood in Anthem.

Another report from the White Mountains saw officers remove a female bear from the area. The bear in question had already been moved in June 2017 from Pinetop to the Mogollon Rim. When discovered, the animal was in the process of consuming hoards of food and water left behind by a local human.

“The public has some responsibility in this situation,” said Scott Poppenburger of the AZGFD. “We encourage people to be responsible in their feeding and remove attractants like intentional feed and even unintentional sources like garbage.”

In order to reduce the risk of bears infiltrating your home, there are some preventive measures you can take. For instance, keep all trash secured inside the house until the garbage trucks come around to collect. Also, keep any food waste inside a freezer so it locks in the smells and doesn’t decompose more. Lastly, take down any birdfeeders at night, as they may draw in a large visitor. For more information on living alongside bears, read the official brochure provided by the AZGFD.