I live in Snohomish (near Mill Creek) and I have for almost 20 years, so hearing stories of friends and neighbors spotting wildlife never surprises me....let's face it they were here long before the big developments in which we reside were built. These sightings always seems to occur more often both in the last fall as it gets colder and food is harder to find for these critters BIG and small, but also at this time of year in the spring, in particular when the bears (yes, bears) are coming out of hibernation and looking for some snacks.
Over the last 2 weeks and in particular the last 2 days, I've read several posts on social media of sightings that were way to close to home for me of a big black bear who took down a neighbor's fence just a block away to get to her bird feeder in the middle of the night. My immediate thought, is "oh no, I need to keep a really close eye on my dogs".... but of course, my mind goes to all the little ones who play along our greenbelt and whose parents may be unaware of these sightings -- just the idea of what could happen scares me to death. Because of that I wanted to take some time and share with you some tips and suggestions of found by reading through the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife website that talks about Living with Bears, so that you can help to keep those unwanted "guests" at bay.
Living with BEARS
Manage your garbage. Bears will expend a great amount of time and energy digging under, breaking down, or crawling over barriers to get food, including garbage. If you have a pickup service, put garbage out shortly before the truck arrives—not the night before. If you’re leaving several days before pickup, haul your garbage to a dump. If necessary, frequently haul your garbage to a dumpsite to avoid odors.
Remove other attractants. Remove bird feeders (suet and seed feeders), which allow residue to build up on the ground below them, from early March through November. Bring in hummingbird feeders at night. (Better yet: plant and bird-friendly landscape and don’t use feeders.) Harvest orchard fruit from trees regularly (rotting fruit left on the ground is a powerful bear attractant). If you have bear problems and do not use your fruit trees, consider removing them. Do not feed pets outside. Clean barbecue grills after each use. Wash the grill or burn off smells, food residue, and grease; store the equipment in a shed or garage and keep the door closed. If you can smell your barbecue then it is not clean enough. Avoid the use of outdoor refrigerators—they will attract bears.
Protect livestock and bees. Place livestock pens and beehives at least 150 feet away from wooded areas and protective cover. Confine livestock in buildings and pens, especially during lambing or calving seasons. Livestock food also attracts bears and must be kept in a secure barn or shed behind closed doors. If bears are allowed access to livestock food, they may learn to feed on livestock. Immediately bury any carcasses or remove them from the site.
Professional Assistance / Reporting a Sighting or Bear Problem. The Department of Fish and Wildlife responds to cougar and bear sightings when there is a threat to public safety or property. If it is an emergency, dial 911. A sighting or the presence of a bear does not constitute a threat to property or public safety. Typically, no attempt will be made by a wildlife agency staff to remove, relocate, or destroy the animal.
If you encounter a cougar or black bear problem, and it is not an emergency, contact the nearest regional Department of Fish and Wildlife office between the hours of 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. In King County, the number to call is (425) 775-1311. If you need to report a non-emergency problem when Department of Fish and Wildlife offices are closed, contact the Washington State Patrol or nearest law enforcement agency.
AND DON'T FORGET COYoTES
In a community which backs to mine there is a large area that was recently cleared to make room for some commercial development. It seems this somewhat small piece of land was home to a number of coyotes who now have lost their homes. I have heard countless stories from residents that it has been common occurrance to see a coyote just wandering down the sidewalk in mid-day. Don't be fooled by this very opportunistic animal. Although they primarily will fee on mice, rats, squirrels, rabbits, grass fruit and berries, to name a few, they will not hesitate to attack a small cat or dog. Coyotes are curious but timid animals and will generally run away if challenged. However, remember that any wild animal will protect itself or its young. Never instigate a close encounter.
If a coyote ever approaches too closely, pick up small children immediately and act aggressively toward the animal. Wave your arms, throw stones, and shout at the coyote. If necessary, make yourself appear larger by standing up (if sitting) or stepping up onto a rock, stump, or stair. The idea is to convince the coyote that you are not prey, but a potential danger. If a coyote continues to act in an aggressive or unusual way, call your local wildlife office or state patrol.
There were no documented coyote attacks on humans in Washington state until 2006. In April 2006, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife officers euthanized two coyotes in Bellevue (King County)after two young children were bitten while their parents were nearby. Coyotes had also scratched and snapped at two women and charged a man in the same area. These coyotes’ unusually aggressive behavior likely resulted from being fed by people.
From 1988 to 1997 in southern California, 53 coyote attacks on humans-- resulting in 21 injuries-- were documented by a University of California Wildlife Extension Specialist. A study of those incidents indicated that human behavior contributes to the problem.
Humans increase the liklihood of conflicts with coyotes by deliberately or inadvertently feeding the animals, whether by handouts or by providing access to food sources such as garbage, pet food or livestock carcasses. When people provide food, coyotes quickly lose their natural fear of humans and become increasingly aggressive. They also become dependent on the easy food source people provide . Once a coyote stops hunting on its own and loses its fear of people, it becomes dangerous and may attack without warning.
Prevention is the best tool for minimizing conflicts with coyotes and other wildlife. To prevent conflicts with coyotes, use the following management strategies around your property and encourage your neighbors to do the same.
Don’t leave small children unattended where coyotes are frequently seen or heard. If there are coyote sightings in your area, prepare your children for a possible encounter. Explain the reasons why coyotes live there (habitat/food source/ species adaptability) and what they should do if one approaches them (don’t run, be as big, mean, and loud as possible). By shouting a set phrase such as “go away coyote” when they encounter one, children will inform nearby adults of the coyote’s presence as opposed to a general scream. Demonstrate and rehearse encounter behavior with the children.
Never feed coyotes. Coyotes that are fed by people often lose their fear of humans and develop a territorial attitude that may lead to aggressive behavior. Try to educate your friends and neighbors about the problems associated with feeding coyotes. If you belong to a homeowner’s association or neighborhood watch, bring up the subject during one of the meetings.
Don’t give coyotes access to garbage. Keep garbage can lids on tight by securing them with rope, chain, bungee cords, or weights. Better yet, buy quality garbage cans with clamps or other mechanisms that hold lids on. To prevent tipping, secure the side handles to metal or wooden stakes driven into the ground. Or keep your cans in tight-fitting bins, a shed, or a garage.
Prevent access to fruit and compost. Keep fruit trees fenced, or pick up fruit that falls to the ground. Keep compost piles within a fenced area or securely covered. Cover new compost material with soil or lime to prevent it from smelling. Never include animal matter in your compost; it attracts coyotes. If burying food scraps, cover them with at least 12 inches of soil, and don’t leave any garbage above ground in the area—including the stinky shovel.
Feed dogs and cats indoors. If you must feed your pets outside, do so in the morning or at midday, and pick up food, water bowls, leftovers, and spilled food well before dark every day.
Don’t feed feral cats (domestic cats gone wild). Coyotes prey on these cats as well as any feed you leave out for the feral cats.
Bird Feeders. Prevent the buildup of feeder foods under bird feeders. Coyotes will eat bird food and are attracted to the many birds and rodents that come to feeders.
Keep dogs and cats indoors, especially from dusk to dawn. If left outside at night in an unprotected area, cats and small to mid-size dogs may be killed by coyotes. Pets can be easy prey for coyotes. Being raised by humans leaves them unsuspecting once they leave the safety of your home. If you suspect losing a dog or cat to a coyote, notify your neighbors. Once a coyote finds easy prey it will continually hunt in the area.
Modify the landscape around children’s play areas. Shrubs and trees should be pruned several feet above ground level so coyotes can’t hide in them. Keep deterrents nearby in times of increased sightings. An old hockey stick, broom, or a pile of stones near the play area can help prepare children for an encounter and will remind them of effective encounter behavior.
Build a coyote-proof fence. Coyotes don’t leap fences in a single bound but, like domestic dogs, they grip the top with their front paws and kick themselves upward and over with the back legs. Their tendency to climb will depend on the individual animal and its motivation. A 5-foot woven-wire fence with extenders facing outward at the top of each post should prevent coyotes from climbing over.
However, all coyotes are excellent diggers, and an effective fence needs to extend at least 8 inches below the surface, or have a galvanized-wire apron that extends out from the fence at least 15 inches.