CATCH THE BUZZ – There was Garbage Everywhere! Why are Bears Prowling Oregon Neighborhoods?

By: Kristin Goodwillie 

EUGENE, Ore. – David Hawkins woke up when he heard noises outside his house.

“I got up to look outside, it was perfectly black outside,” he said. “It was like 4:30 in the morning.”

It wasn’t until first light that residents on Kimberly Circle saw what had happened the night before.

“There was garbage everywhere,” said Joseph Cowles. “I looked out my side window and saw the neighbor’s garbage everywhere. I looked out my front window and it was more of the same.”

Residents of a neighborhood between 30th Avenue and Spring Boulevard say a bear rummage through a curbside garbage can this week.

It didn’t take long to figure out who made the mess.

Staff at the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife say they’ve had an increase in reports of bears moving around the area.

Since the berry crops aren’t out yet, food options for the bears are limited.

“Anything that smells good, lotions, oils – if you have that in your car, we’ve had bears break into cars,” said Joe Stack, with ODFW.

Trash, bird seed and compost are also big attractants to bears right now as well.

Stack says that it’s important to keep belongings clean and locked up, and that you’re never supposed to scare a bear.

“But you want to make noise, let them know of your presence,” said Stack.

If you wake up to find your trash sprawled all over your front yard, there’s a good chance that it was a bear. While it can be a pain to clean up, most people say they don’t mind having wildlife so close to home.

If a bear does become a nuisance, ODFW says it will be euthanized. They say that come June, they’ll likely stay away from homes and begin eating wild berries.

ODFW offers these tips for homeowners to protect humans, bees – and bears:

  • Keep pet food indoors. Feed pets in the house, garage or enclosed kennel.
  • Hang bird feeders from a wire at least 10 feet off the ground and 6 to 10 feet from the trunk of tree.
  • Remove fruit that has fallen from trees.
  • Add lime to compost piles to reduce odors – do not compost meat, bones, fruit, dairy products or grease.
  • Secure garbage cans in a garage, shed or behind a chain link or electric fence.
  • Put garbage cans out just before pick-up time, not the night before.
  • Purchase bear-proof garbage cans if necessary.
  • Take garbage with you when leaving your vacation home.
  • Clean garbage containers regularly with bleach or moth balls to reduce odors.
  • Use electric fencing to keep bears from orchards, gardens, compost, beehives and berries.
  • Store livestock food in a secure place.
  • Don’t leave scented candles, soap or suntan lotions outdoors or near open windows.
  • Keep barbeques clean. Store them in a shed or garage.
  • Talk to neighbors to encourage everyone in the neighborhood to remove attractants.
  • Stay indoors and allow a snooping bear to move on.
  • Never, ever feed a bear.
  • Teach children about bear safety.
  • Contain food and garbage
  • Store food in airtight containers in the trunk of your car, in bear boxes or on platforms
  • Hang bagged food 10-12 feet high and 6-10 feet from tree trunk or side support.
  • Do not leave food items or pet food outdoors or in tents. Clean all food preparation and eating utensils immediately after using them, and place them in vehicles or other sealed, bear-proof containers.
  • Dispose of garbage in bear-proof cans or pack it out.
  • Do not bury garbage – bears will dig it up.