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Keep bear safety in mind as fall season approaches

17th Public Affairs Detachment

Published: 02:46PM September 6th, 2012
Keep bear safety in mind as fall season approaches

Ingrid Barrentine/Northwest Guardian

JBLM Police Officer Christopher Pekema, right, holds on to Mishka, a Karelian bear dog, as Washington State Fish and Wildlife officials release a black bear Aug. 3, 2011, in a remote area of the Cascade Range. The bear was caught the day before in the New Hillside housing area on JBLM.

The approach of fall means black bears will be moving around more and Soldiers and civilians at Joint Base Lewis-McChord need to practice bear safety.

“As long as people are giving (bears) their space, they pose no threat,” Lt. Christopher Enoch, JBLM training area patrol supervisor said.

According to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, black bears search for food more during fall, up to 20 hours a day, to build up fat stores for their winter hibernation.

There have been seven reported bear sightings on JBLM this year, no more than the normal five to 10 sightings from the past few years, JBLM Fish and Wildlife Program Manager David Clouse said.

While there are relatively few bear sightings on post, people who live and work on JBLM can take a few steps to make certain the occasional bear sighting does not become serious.

“Unless we’re challenging a food source or a sow with her cubs ... (bears are) generally going to run,” Enoch said.

If you see a bear, keep your distance from the animal, back away slowly, and make a lot of noise, Enoch said. Bears are generally going to choose to retreat from a human.

“They’re going to move to another area where they feel like they’re not going to be disturbed,” Enoch said.

Bears are opportunistic. Scavenging food left by humans may prove easier than foraging in the woods, Enoch said. To reduce the chance of bears coming near residential areas, those who live on JBLM should keep food waste in their garage during the summer months.

If a bear is sighted near a residential area, Enoch said call 911 and stay indoors. Officials will attempt to capture bears that prove to be a nuisance and release them in Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest.

“(Bears are) much happier in the national forest than they are with us,” Enoch said.