Following the capture and killing of a black bear north of Ketchum last week, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game is asking residents from about mid valley north to not put out their garbage at night.
“We’ve had a lot of phone calls about bears this summer—more than normal,” Magic Valley Regional Wildlife Manager Mike McDonald said.
Eagle Creek Loop resident Darcy Van Speelant said a bear had been in her neighborhood, on the west side of state Highway 75 about 6 miles north of Ketchum, for about a month and a half this summer. She said it had been getting into trash cans, had destroyed one of her two beehives and had been seen at people’s windows.
McDonald said the adult male bear was caught early in the morning on Wednesday, Aug. 14, in a culvert trap. He said department policy is to kill bears that have become accustomed to eating human food.
“We have a long history of trying to relocate bears that have become habituated to human food, and without exception they return to the same or a nearby place and become repeat offenders,” he said.
Department spokesman Terry Thompson said the policy generally applies to female bears as well, even those with cubs.
“We would treat that in a case-by-case situation, but if the bear is aggressive at all, it would be euthanized,” Thompson said. “We don’t want somebody to get hurt, or, in the worst case, killed.
“If it’s a sow going through garbage cans, she’s just teaching her young to do the same thing.”
He said the department tries to find a home in a zoo for orphaned cubs, but there aren’t many zoos looking for black bears.
“They, too, would be euthanized because they would never survive in the wild,” he said.
McDonald said a Fish and Game officer talked to Eagle Creek Loop residents about keeping their garbage in at night after the bear was reported in the area, with “mixed results.”
“There were people up there who really buttoned things down and became bear-smart,” he said. “But there were others who did not.”
McDonald said another bear, a yearling male, had been in the Hulen Meadows subdivision, just north of Ketchum, earlier this summer. He said it was initially attracted to beehives on a property just north of the subdivision, but left there once the owner put up an electric fence. McDonald said the bear then moved through the subdivision, eating from garbage cans.
“We had pretty good luck with those folks in that subdivision to really button things up,” he said. “When the bear was deprived of a food source, he left.”
McDonald said bears have also been reported recently in the Warm Springs area near the Warm Springs base lodge, near the YMCA, at the former site of the North Fork Store and in the North Fork Campground. Van Speeland said a second bear has also been in the Eagle Loop neighborhood since the first bear was caught.
McDonald said Fish and Game officers killed three bears in the South Fork of the Boise River area this summer—one in a summer-home neighborhood and two at campgrounds.
He said factors contributing to the unusual number of bear encounters this summer could be the late winter and spring, which delayed plant growth as bears emerged from hibernation, and late production of wild berries. Now, he said, plants are starting to dry out. In addition, he said, the region appears to have “a really healthy bear population.”
McDonald said the department hasn’t received any reports of bears around Hailey this summer.
“As you move south in the valley, the likelihood of having these encounters decreases,” he said.
But anyone living near Ketchum or to the north should put trash cans out on the morning they’re being picked up, he said.
Van Speelant agreed.
“We’re adding to the poor bears’ demise if we continue this behavior,” she said.