Camping Season Is Here: Be Bear-Aware
PHOENIX Ė The long-awaited prime camping season is
here and the Arizona Game and Fish Department wants to
remind people heading into the cool, high country to be
bear aware and keep a clean campsite.
"The root cause of most conflicts between bears and
people, especially in camping areas, is food. Bears
canít change their behavior, but people can," says Bruce
Sitko, a Game and Fish Department public information
officer in the Pinetop regional office.
Prolonged drought and the subsequent decrease of food
growing in the wild have Game and Fish Department
biologists concerned about a possible increase in
bear-human encounters this year. Bear calls are already
on the rise from residents in some mountain communities.
Recently, a young black bear attacked and slightly
injured a 14-year-old boy who was out camping with
friends along the Gila River near Hayden. State wildlife
authorities say the attack and other incidents highlight
the need for campers and other outdoor recreationists
throughout the state to be bear aware this season.
"Fortunately, the young man only sustained minor
injuries from the bear attack. Hopefully, this incident
will raise peopleís awareness about the potential of
increased human-wildlife interactions this year due to
the prolonged drought. Black bears should always be
considered unpredictable and dangerous to people," says
Randy Babb, an Arizona Game and Fish Department
Babb explained that during the winter-spring of
2004-05, the state experienced record rainfall, and the
available food stuffs for bears and other wildlife
species was terrific. Last year, biologists noted lots
of bear sows with two cubs. Those cubs are now hungry
yearlings actively searching for something to eat.
As a result, bear calls and incidents are on the
increase in many areas of the state. "We have had a
number of recent human-bear incidents around the state.
If you go camping, be sure to be bear aware," says
In another recent incident, in the area of Clear
Creek Estates between Flagstaff and Payson, a bear
approached a boy and girl sitting on their fatherís
pickup and the children ran. The bear chased the young
girl to within 10 feet of her father, who yelled at the
bear. The bear stopped and stood its ground for some
time, before finally wandering off. Wildlife
authorities are actively searching for the aggressive
Game and Fish Department biologists say the root
cause of most conflicts between bears and people,
especially in camping areas, is food. Officials say it
is prudent for all outdoor recreationists to take the
following precautions to minimize potential conflicts
with bears and other wildlife:
* Never intentionally feed wildlife.
* Secure all garbage.
* Keep a clean camp.
* Do not cook in your tent or sleeping area.
* Store all foods, toiletries and other scented items
well away from sleeping areas and unavailable to bears.
* Wash up, change clothing and remove all scented
articles before retiring to your sleeping area.
* Walk or jog in groups. Pay attention to your
surroundings when hiking, jogging or bicycling.
* Supervise your children and keep them in sight.
* Keep your pets on a leash Ė donít allow them to roam
free. Or better yet, leave them at home if you can. Pets
can easily get into conflicts with a wide range of
wildlife from skunks to coyotes.
But if you are confronted by a bear, never, ever run.
Try to make yourself look as big and imposing as
possible. Stay facing the animal. Throw something at it.
Speak and let it know you are human. Loud noises can
help. Try clanging pans, using air horns, or whatever is