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Home arrow News arrow Local News arrow Donít feed the bears at Wallowa Lake


Donít feed the bears at Wallowa Lake

It is spring and the bears that den in the Wallowa Mountains are awake and hungry, but please don’t feed the bears, warn biologists.

Every year both USDA Wildlife Services and Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife get numerous calls regarding problem bears. Many of these calls are the from Wallowa Lake community.

Fish and Wildlife Biologist Mike Hansen said Wallowa Lake is close to winter den sites so residents, business owners and visitors need to be careful with food and garbage.

Last week, an older bear that had been ransacking garbage cans and dumpsters ended up in a Fish and Wildlife culvert trap and was eventually killed.

Hansen said younger bears are often released into the wild far from where the problems occurred, but they only get one chance. If they return and cause more problems they are killed.

Last week the agency decided that the problem bear would be destroyed because he was not afraid of humans and was aggressive.

The bear had been getting into garbage cans and dumpsters at Vali’s Restaurant, Flying Arrow cabins, the Eagle Cap pack station and the Wallowa Lake State Park for a couple weeks before he crawled into the state’s culvert trap. Hansen said this happens every year, mostly in the spring.

“The head of Wallowa Lake is bear country so people live in bear country,” said Hansen.

He said the two species can live peaceably if garbage cans are indoors and Dumpsters are secured. Few of the garbage cans at Wallowa Lake are “bear proof” and acquiring these receptacles that are difficult for bears to open can alleviate the problem of marauding bears and strewn trash.

When bears awake in the spring they haven’t eaten in several months and are very hungry, said Hansen. They start out by eating grass, which helps get their digestive systems working again.

Then they move onto roots and eventually insects, squirrels, and scavenging. In the summer apples, plums and berries become their main diet.

When garbage or campers’ coolers are available they become easy targets. Being dexterous and opportunistic, bears help themselves to what is easiest. They can open doors to homes, camp trailers, cars and even take the lids off peanut butter jars.

Hansen calls garbage an “attractive nuisance” to bears. If no food is around, they will wander off away from humans.

Enterprise District Biologist Vic Coggins said black bears are found all over Wallowa County and den as low as 2,000 feet and as high as 6,500 feet. The agency’s website says there are between 25,000 and 30,000 black bears in the state.


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