After emerging from their winter dens, black bears have already started looking for easy food rewards in the Wood River Valley, particularly in neighborhood trash cans, according to the Idaho Department of Fish and Game.

Fish and Game’s Magic Valley Regional Office is asking residents to keep their trash in their garage until the morning of pick-up and to store human and pet food sources where a bear can’t access it.

“After emerging from hibernation, black bears are on a quest to eat between 15,000 to 20,000 calories to replenish fat reserves … which means they are constantly searching for food,” the department stated. “Black bears have been roaming North America for the last 500,000 years. They are well-equipped to survive without human food, by foraging primarily on grasses, buds, forbs, insects, berries, and occasionally meat.”

Feeding bears unintentionally with unsecured food sources—such as garbage, bird feeders and dog food—can lead to the animals quickly associating residential neighborhoods with food.

“The sad outcome of a food-conditioned bear in a neighborhood is that a once wild bear has now become a threat to public safety,” Fish and Game stated. “You may have heard the saying ‘a fed bear is a dead bear,’ which is an unfortunate reality.”

To help keep bears wild, Fish and Game recommends that residents take down bird feeders in the summer and fall, a time when birds have ample natural food sources. Electric fencing should also be installed around chicken coops and beehives.

If a bear is encountered in a residential yard or deck and hazing can be done safely, the department recommends taking immediate action to let it know it is not welcome. This can be done by loud yelling, clapping or banging on pots and pans.

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