[Article by Nadine Drisseq, biologist with Bear Smart WA]
Everyday there seems to be a new Facebook report of bear sighting on Snoqualmie Ridge and is it any wonder? Snoqualmie inhabitants live in high-density black bear country – and the large, master-planned community is home to many residents not used to rural dwelling.
In between 2000 and 2014, the human population in Snoqualmie grew a staggering 674.4%, from a population of 2,150 to 13,087, displacing animals from large tracts of wildlife habitat, and removing their food and living resources, as well as their access to remaining resources.
Therefore, it’s no surprise that bear incidents and sightings are rising exponentially due to a combination of population growth, and urban sprawl into bear habitat. A single city ordinance is insufficient in curbing the dramatic increase in human-bear conflict.
Snoqualmie communities will safely and successfully coexist with the bears that patrol neighborhoods searching for garbage as food when residents learn to take important precautions while living with their bear neighbors.
Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and Bear Smart WA agree, it really is up to us to control bear attractants. Do that and conflict dissipates fast.
Off-the-chart Human-Bear Conflict exists in Snoqualmie
According to Bear Smart, which tracks bear sightings in King County, Snoqualmie has seen a record number of bear sightings related to garbage this year. In rural areas, chickens coops have been ransacked, while rates of cars and garages being broken into for food have also increased. One homeowner in nearby North Bend even took the law into their own hands, shooting a bear on their property.
Bear Smart says the escalation of conflict and sightings will continue to increase until city ordinances are stronger AND residents become more responsible regarding bear attractants.
We are the solution.
- Store Garbage in the garage until the morning of Pick-Up.
- Request bear-resistant containers from Waste Management
- Write to Snoqualmie City Council stressing the need to create more ordinances:
- “No storage of garbage cans outside”
- “No Bird Feeders between March and November”
- Share this information with your neighbors on Facebook and Next Door.
- Be aware and resolve issues of attractants such as cleaning dirty BBQ grills, and protecting poultry, beehives and orchards with electric fencing. Pick ripe fruit from trees before it falls, and store pet food indoors overnight.
- Ask your HOA to work with WDFW and Bear Smart WA so we can help communities reduce conflict and sightings. We will do everything in our power to help HOA’s disseminate information to their communities, provide materials and support in the way of feedback and assistance, and use any methods they wish us to.
“We need people to tell their council that this is important,” Richard Beausoleil, Bear and Cougar Specialist, WA Dept. of Fish and Wildlife.
Bears suffer the consequences of human negligence
Bear Smart says Snoqualmie is now racking up human-bear conflict towards a level comparable to other communities fraught with massive problems associated with urbanized bear populations.
As local bears become increasingly food-conditioned to attractants, and habituated to humans by living in closer proximity, it is bears who pay the price. Black bears are here to stay. We must change our behavior in order to live in harmony with them.
A healthy bear is one that is never seen by humans; if a bear is sighted it is always in connection with human negligence concerning attractants – i.e. mainly garbage.
Food conditioned bears are eventually euthanized when relocation does not work. The process is expensive as well as time-consuming. It’s even worse when cubs are raised in this environment. They do not stand a chance when mother bears raise them in a conflict environment. Their young lives cut short before they even reach maturity.
Control attractants; it’s as simple as that
It cannot be overstated that outdoor food for pets, bird feeders, and garbage need to be properly handled and stored to minimize their attraction. We cannot solely rely on Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife enforcement officers and biologists to “fix” the problem.
Bears become less reclusive while taking more risks in their quest for survival. In Snoqualmie, a situation of significant magnitude really is catalyzing before our eyes. The only way to slow it down is for education AND action on the part of the City and its residents.
Public outreach is essential and necessary in promoting awareness, information, and education. Bear Smart WA’s Bear Tech volunteer Melissa Grant is helping lead Snoqualmie’s revolution in Bear Wisdom. Melissa says, “Bears are not the scary antagonists media often make them out to be, yet nor are they domesticated creatures who behave like our pets. In order to exist as independent, wild bears, humans need be responsible in an effort to help keep bears healthy and in the wild.”
Find out more about Bear Smart WA on their Facebook page or email email@example.com