Meddlesome bears getting into neighborhoods, but whose fault is it?

JACKSON HOLE, WYO – Game and Fish says the  phone has been buzzing lately with calls about bears getting into residential areas—particularly garbage—and causing problems.

Good spring moisture usually means plentiful forage for bruins and they typically disperse soon after emerging from hibernation. But that hasn’t been the case according to WGFD spokesperson Mark Gocke. The Jackson District office has been under a barrage of calls for the past few weeks.

“We’ve had a lot of bear calls in the last two weeks. Multiple calls everyday,” Gocke said. “They start out as sightings, then we hear of conflict-related incidents. It seems a bit unusual this time of year. It’s been busy.”

It’s been mainly black bears getting into residential areas in Teton Village, Hoback, along Snake River corridor near the airport, Fall Creek Road south of Wilson, and the Alta area. In one case a suspected grizzly bear print was left behind.

And it isn’t just Jackson Hole. Sheridan and Cody have also been busy fielding calls about problem bears.

Whether it’s grizzly pushing black bear out of the backcountry, increased residential growth into bear habitat, or some other factor at work, no one is able to say at this point.

But steps can be taking to help alleviate the problem. Gocke says the biggest help would be if people stopped putting their garbage out the night before pickup. It is getting to be as if some bears have learned our calendar.

Bear-resistant containers are a must for neighborhoods where they are required but more important is using them correctly. All too often Game and Fish sees overflowing cans preventing them from properly closing and latching. Some people are putting garbage bags on top of already full bins. That’s not going to work.

It’s a responsibility, it’s up to us to show we can cohabitate with these special animals, Gocke says.

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