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What's a food-conditioned bear and how to help prevent more bear conflicts

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Posted at 2:00 PM, Sep 30, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-01 09:59:38-04

IDAHO — With winter quickly approaching, bears all across Idaho are on the hunt for food to pack on the pounds before hibernation starts. This time of year, they sometimes search in places they normally wouldn't, like in neighborhoods and people's trashcans.

"A food-conditioned bear is basically one that has found a food source and it is going to return to it," Roger Phillips, IDFG Public Information Supervisor said. "These things cover a lot of territories, they know where to find food, and unfortunately oftentimes this time of year as they get closer to hibernation that might be near humans."

Idaho has a lot of black bears, and although most of the time they stay out in the wild when they find a food source, it's more than likely they will keep returning to it for more.

Most recently, IDFG says they have seen an increase in bear conflicts in the Wood River Valley and McCall.

“We see a very large potentially dangerous animal that has lost its fear of humans and that is a big concern to us and something frankly we have a really low tolerance for,” Phillips said.

However, the Treasure Valley isn't immune to this problem either. A black bear had to be euthanized this month in a Boise Industrial Park.

“These aren’t easy decisions for us,” Phillips said. "Last spring we had a fairly young bear wander into just the edge of town and we decided this is probably a pretty good candidate to trap that bear and move it."

Although they hope for the best, relocating a bear oftentimes isn't always successful. IDFG moved it over 40 miles away and it was back in town again this fall, so they had to act quickly especially with its proximity to humans.

But, how does IDFG decide when it's time to euthanize a bear or when they will try relocating it?

“It comes down to, do we think this bear has lost its fear of humans and is this something that is going to be a repeat offender, a habitual thing,” Phillips said.

There are a few simple things IDFG says you can do to help prevent bear conflicts where you live, especially if it's near the prime bear habitat.

"If they can just remove any kind of food sources being pet food, garbage, even bird feeders, birdseed things like that," Phillips said. "That can really help and then they can put them back out later this fall, but this is kind of a critical period close to hibernation."