Bear scares prompt authorized hunt - Tucson News Now

Bear scares prompt authorized hunt

FORT HUACHUCA, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

A bear scare in Cochise County has residents on high alert. The Arizona Game and Fish Department just met with city council leaders in Sierra Vista to talk about an authorized bear population control management hunt that will be taking place.

This is after at least 10 different bears were sighted within a three day period this month, officials say some of them were right in people's backyards.

Arizona Game and Fish officials are telling residents in Cochise County to take their trash inside until pickup day because the bears in the area are bold and hungry.

"On Friday we started a population management that allows five archery hunters between now and December 31 to take bears out of the mountains," said Mark Hart with game and fish.

It is the first state authorized bear hunt since 2006 and the reason is because officials say nuisance bears are getting way too close to home.

Most recently, one died crossing the highway Monday morning. It was a rare and unusual sight on Highway 90.  Officials say they usually done come this far down into the valley.

"Over here we had a bunch of popsicles, on top of the tool box.  He got into the popsicles and was probably on a sugar high when he went across the highway," said a Cochise county resident who said bears had been digging into his trash on several occasions.

State Game and Fish officials said while ten different bears had been sighted recently, they are guessing the Huachuca Mountains are home to about 35 to 65 black bears.

Officials say two dry winters in a row and the devastating Monument Fire, that charred their habitat was driving the bears into Cochise County neighborhoods.

"There's not enough Manzanita nuts, acorns or juniper berries in the Huachucas to sustain them so they're foraging for food in residential areas," said Hart.

Several of those bear sightings took place at the Fort Huachuca Army Base.  Pictures from the Base show a male bear going to town on lunch boxes left behind by startled soldiers, when the bear walked up on them.

The army base has put up signs warning soldiers that live bears are in the area.

"There are multiple bears in the area. We believe territorial pressure is what's pushing them down here, also because of the lack of food," said Chief of Environment and Natural Resources Ft. Huachuca Kim Mulhern.

Game and fish official said the bear hunt was necessary. They have already tried to relocate them.  They even tried to haze them with stinging rubber bullets but the bears just keep coming back.

They also come to take your trash. Officials advise to pick up all fruits, bird seeds that may have fallen to the ground and pet food from the front yard, because those are the things that typically attract a bear on to your property. 

Copyright 2012 Tucson News Now. All rights reserved. 

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