Game and Fish reminds public to be bear aware - Tucson News Now

Game and Fish reminds public to be bear aware

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(Source: Arizona Game and Fish Department) (Source: Arizona Game and Fish Department)
TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

The Arizona Game and Fish Department reminds the public to be bear aware following multiple bear sightings in Southeastern Arizona this year.

Campers and others reported bear sightings near Arivaipa Canyon, in the York Valley area, Huachuca Mountains and on Ft. Huachuca.

Department officials said warmer weather could have shortened annual hibernations, from which black bears typically emerge in March.

Game and Fish fielded approximately 100 bear calls between mid-July and mid-October 2012 because of bears foraging in residential neighborhoods of greater Sierra Vista after the Monument Fire, according to a news release.

"Bears in search of food are often attracted to homes and into proximity with people, which puts both at risk. Most conflicts are caused by people unintentionally feeding bears, often by allowing them access to household garbage, bird feeders, garden areas or trees bearing fruit," said Regional Supervisor Raul Vega of Game and Fish in Tucson. "Fed bears can lose their fear of humans and begin to associate humans with food, sometimes causing property damage and even injuring people. But conflicts between humans and bears are preventable."

Officials suggest storing garbage in a secure garage or shed until the morning of collection to help eliminate the chances of a bear visit. They said campers should never take food into a tent, use deodorizing sprays if storing food in cars when a bear-proof box is not available, and clean themselves off thoroughly after cooking as well as change clothes afterward that may have lingering odors.

Those who see a bear that refuses to leave a yard, neighborhood or campground is urged to contact the Game and Fish office at (520) 628-5376 or (800) 352-0700 on evenings, weekends and holidays.

Game and Fish suggests the following steps to discourage a bear in the rare chance it approaches:

- Alter your route to avoid 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, the only bear species found in the state, varies in fur color, including brown, cinnamon and blonde. It is the smallest and most widely distributed North American bear, department officials said.

Game and Fish said black bears:

- Weigh 125-400 pounds, with males being larger than females

- Are three to three-and-a-half feet tall when on all four feet

- Eat primarily acorns, berries, insects and cactus fruits

- Live in most forest, woodland and chaparral habitats, and desert riparian areas

- Roam an area of seven to 15 square miles

- Produce two to three cubs born in January or February

- Live up to 25 years in the wild

- Are active between dawn and dusk

Bears are classified as big game animals in Arizona and are protected by state law. Feeding wildlife, including bears, in Pima and Cochise counties, can result in fines ranging from $300 in Pima County to $2,500 in Cochise County.

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