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Bears - In town for a quick bite

by Kyle McCLELLAN Western News
| September 21, 2007 12:00 AM

A hefty black bear that had wrapped its fury frame around a pine tree on Louisiana Avenue this weekend drove home the annual fall lesson: Yards could be an unsecured bear jackpot.

That's good news for the bears, which can manage to ingest hundreds of thousands of calories each day from backyard bounties, but bad news for residents, trash and pets.

Bad news for yards, too, which may feature plum trees, apple trees, chokecherries and bird feed.

Kim Annis, a Grizzly Bear Management Specialist for Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks, said a bear that gets into a bird feeder could ingest 20,000 calories in about 10 minutes.

That's the incentive that compels these human-wary animals into the unknown dangers of urban life, a life that bears will be visiting for the next three or four weeks as they seek extra fuel for hibernation.

Annis said it's best to continually clean fallen fruit from yards before it ripens and emits a scent. Then, lock it in a bear-resistant container. Electric fences provide the most effective deterrent.

"Figure out what needs to be put away so the bear doesn't return next time, "Annis said.

Spooked by a couple dogs across the alley on Sunday, the bear clawed its way up the tree behind Family Birth Services at 516 Louisiana Ave. early in the morning. It didn't venture back down until after 10 p.m., when Annis stopped receiving reports of it.

She said that's typically the routine.

Forcing a bear out of a high place involves risk, not only to the bear but also to people and property. Shooting sedatives into a bear may cause it to fall and run away where it eventually succumbs to a chemical-induced sleep in an unknown spot.

Which sets the process back to the beginning.

"We really try to avoid that in the best of situations," Annis said.