AZ Game and Fish advising be ‘bear aware’ this holiday weekend

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Planning on spending the long holiday weekend camping or spending time outdoors in the Coronado National Forest, Arizona Game and Fish is advising them to be 'bear aware' if they are.

"Food and food odors attract bears, which can be dangerous," said Regional Supervisor Raul Vega of Game and Fish in Tucson, in a recent news release. "So never approach or feed bears. Secure all food and garbage.  Unfortunately, a fed bear may become a dead bear because of the public safety threat caused by human carelessness. "

Arizona Game and Fish has a zero tolerance for adult male bears that become a nuisance, because of their relative aggressiveness.  Nuisance females, yearlings and cubs are usually relocated one or more times, although moved bears often travel long distances to return to their home territory.

The following are some bear safety tips:

  • Don't store food in tents or sleeping areas, Use bear boxes or secured areas to store food
  • Wash your hands and face, and change clothing, before sleeping,
  • Keep a clean camp by disposing of trash in a bear proof container or out of reach of a bear.
  • Become "Bear Aware" by visiting

Those spending Memorial Day outdoors should have the following two phone numbers in their cell phones: (520) 628-5376 – Game and Fish office during the day, and (800) 352-0700 on evenings, weekends and holidays.  These are contact numbers for campers, hikers, or anyone who encounters a bear at a campground, in a picnic area, or on a trail; depending on what the bear is doing, department personnel may respond if it remains in the area.

Here are a few tips as well on what to do when a bear is spotted in the distance, but along your route.  First alter your path if possible, if the bear by chance approaches you, you can do the following to help discourage it:

  • Make yourself as large and imposing as possible. Stand upright and wave your arms, jacket or other items, and make loud noises.
  • Do not run and never play dead.
  • Give the bear a chance to leave the area.
  • If the bear does not leave, stay calm, continue facing it, and slowly back away.

The black bear is the only bear species found in Arizona, and although fur color varies and includes brown, cinnamon and blond, they are all considered black bears. It is the smallest and most widely distributed North American bear.

A few facts on the Black bear, they weigh between125-400 pounds with males being larger than females.  They are generally three- to three-and-a-half feet tall when on all four feet.  Primarily eats acorns, berries, insects and cactus fruits.  Habitat generally forest, woodland and chaparral habitats, and desert riparian areas, they can roam an area of 7 to 15 square miles.  Females can give birth to two to three cubs born in January or February.  They also can live up to 25 years in the wild, and are most active between dawn and dusk.

Bears are classified as big game animals in Arizona and are protected by state law. It is unlawful to feed wildlife, including bears, in Maricopa, Pima and Pinal counties. Penalties include fines of up to $300. Local ordinances may apply elsewhere.

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