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Black Bears on the Oregon Coast
Oregon Coast Notes - News

beargarbageBlack bears are very active in the mid summer months because they are entering the breeding season. Bears can be seen moving around near feeding areas in late evening. In mid day bears will be inactive or in heavy cover where viewing them will be difficult. Most bears are feeding heavily on grass and the growing tips of brush. Good places to see bears are in clear cuts that are a few years old where brush and grass is well established and in natural forest clearings like land slide areas.

Yearling bears are becoming independent at this time of year. They can often be seen walking down forest roads or out in clear cuts as they try to establish territories. Many of these bears are small—much less that 100 lbs. in size. Some people think they are orphaned cubs but in reality they are not. These bears can be relatively easy to find if you watch clear cuts during twilight hours.

They are also wandering into coastal communities looking for food.

According to ODFW District Wildlife Biologist Stuart Love, the Charleston Field Office has seen an increase in reports of bear sightings in coastal cities, including Reedsport, Coos Bay, Bandon and others.

According to Love the bears are growing increasingly desperate for food as winter approaches, so they're looking for it anywhere they can, including garbage cans, bird feeders and pet food.

"When a bear comes into town to try to get food, if it's not successful, doesn't get into garbage cans, nobody feeds it, that type of thing, the bear will move on, it won't come back to town. But if they're successful, then they start coming back."

Love says homeowners need to take the attraction away from bears, putting pet food indoors and bird feeders out of reach.

He says most bears won't pose a threat until they get comfortable.

Residents have reported seeing bears, shooting bears and hitting bears with their cars all along Oregon's central coast and inland toward Eugene, said Doug Cottam with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife in Newport, Ore.

"I had been personally expecting a year that was probably worse than last year," Cottam said. "There were a lot of cubs born last year. I literally had many reports of sows with triplets. All those cubs are now yearlings, and it's time for them to be weened from their mother."

Cottam called these yearlings "the classic nuisance bear."

"Most of those youngsters, on their own for the first, typically are the number one call we get," he said.

Older bears are the "kings of the forest" and force young bears out of their territory - and some of those bears show up in towns like Mapleton and Walton.

When the bears grow up near an urban area, you get the problem Florence faces, Cottam said: urban residential bears that are completely accustomed to living with people. Cubs are "human-habituated" when they become young adults and strike off on their own.

"We have lots of phone calls from the Florence area, several from Yachats, several along Highway 34," he said. He is also aware of at least four bears hit by cars along Highway 126 between Eugene and the Coast.

"The whole middle of the Oregon Coast inward toward Eugene seems to have a lot of problems right now," he said.

About Black Bears

black_bear_idOregon is home to about 25,000 to 30,000 black bears, North America's most common bear species. Generally black in color, they can also be brown, cinnamon or blond. Fast and agile, they are good swimmers and climbers who prefer forests, trails and streams.

At home throughout Oregon, black bears are omnivorous and have a diverse diet including berries, fruit, grasses and plants. Although they will consume small mammals, insects and amphibians, these bears are not usually active predators.

Bears should never be allowed access to human food or garbage; it habituates them to people and increases the chance of conflict. Once habituated to finding food near homes or campgrounds, bears can become a threat to human safety and must often be destroyed.

Is it a black bear or a grizzly bear?

Oregon is black bear country. Although native to the area, there are no longer grizzly bears in the state. The last grizzly bear recorded was killed in the late 1930s at Billy Meadows, north of Enterprise in Wallowa County. However, because black bears are often brown, people sometimes wonder what species of bear they have seen. Here is some information on bear identification.

Be Safe

Around the house

Bear proofing your yard and neighborhood can help avoid potentially dangerous bear encounters and keep Oregon's bears safe and where they belong – in the wild.

Most problems are caused by people feeding bears, either actively or inadvertently. Once habituated to finding food near homes, bears can become a threat to human safety and must often be euthanized.

Follow these guidelines to protect both humans and bears.

  • Keep pet food indoors.
  • Feed pets in the house, garage or enclosed kennel.
  • Hang bird feeders from a wire at least 10 feet off the ground and 6 to 10 feet from the trunk of tree.
  • Remove fruit that has fallen from trees.
  • Add lime to compost piles to reduce odors ― do not compost meat, bones, fruit, dairy products or grease.
  • Secure garbage cans in a garage, shed or behind a chain link or electric fence.
  • Put garbage cans out just before pick-up time, not the night before.
  • Purchase bear-proof garbage cans if necessary.
  • Take garbage with you when leaving your vacation home.
  • Clean garbage containers regularly with bleach or moth balls to reduce odors.
  • Use electric fencing to keep bears from orchards, gardens, compost, beehives and berries.
  • Store livestock food in a secure place.
  • Don't leave scented candles, soap or suntan lotions outdoors or near open windows.
  • Keep barbeques clean. Store them in a shed or garage.
  • Talk to neighbors to encourage everyone in the neighborhood to remove attractants.
  • Stay indoors and allow a snooping bear to move on.
  • Never, ever feed a bear.
  • Teach children about bear safety.

Camper, Hiker, Angler, Hunter Guidelines

Be Wildlife Smart When Working in the Woods (pdf)

  • Contain food and garbage
  • Store food in airtight containers in the trunk of your car, in bear boxes or on platforms
  • Hang food bagged food 10-12 feet high and 6-10 feet from tree trunk or side support.
  • Do not leave food items or pet food outdoors or in tents.
  • Clean all food preparation and eating utensils immediately after using them, and place them in vehicles or other sealed, bear-proof containers.
  • Dispose of garbage in bear-proof cans or pack it out.
  • Do not bury garbage ― bears will dig it up.

Camp safely

  • Keep campsites and campfire areas clean.
  • Sleep at least 100 yards from cooking/eating areas.
  • Keep dogs on leashes or in cars.
  • Never pick up a bear cub ― its mother has left it there and will return.
  • Stay clear of berry patches.
  • Don't leave soap, suntan lotion, candles, scented items outdoors or in tent.
  • Pitch your tent away from dense brush or trees ― avoid what might be an animal trail to a river or stream
  • Use a flashlight at night.
  • Don't camp or hike alone.
  • Teach children about bear safety.

Hike safely

  • Avoid trails with bear tracks or bear sign.
  • Make noise when hiking so as not to surprise a bear.
  • If you see a bear, leave the area.
  • Stay far away from cubs―mother is nearby.
  • Leash dogs. A loose dog may lead a bear back to you.
  • Don't hike after dark.
  • Consider carrying bear spray in areas known to have bears

Angler, Hunter Guidelines

Fishing or hunting in bear country, brings some additional challenges, so take extra caution.

  • Manage food and refuse
  • Keep food in bear-proof containers.
  • Place all garbage and fish refuse in sealed, bear-proof containers.
  • Keep campsites, campfire sites clean.
  • Do not bury garbage or fish refuse; bears will dig it up.

Be safe while fishing

  • Fish with at least one other person
  • Talk loudly around a stream – carry a whistle to use to alert bears of your presence.
  • Avoid berry patches
  • If you see a bear or fresh bear sign, leave the area
  • Clean fish at designated cleaning stations.

Enjoying the natural beauty of the Oregon Coast brings with it some responsibilities. Co-existing with our bear population is one of them.

Enjoy everything we have to offer and BE SAFE!

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