Conflicts with black bears after the animals have become food conditioned have kept wildlife managers busy in the Sheridan, Wyoming, area recently.
On July 17 the Wyoming Game and Fish Department trapped and relocated a black bear after it broke into a chicken coop and ate poultry eggs on a ranch in north central Sheridan County.
In addition, three bears were euthanized after they received repeated human food rewards and exhibited unsafe behavior toward humans.
A 3-year-old male black bear was euthanized on June 24 after being captured in Ranchester.
“The first call I received was of the bear running through a neighborhood at 8 p.m.,” said Dayton game warden Dustin Shorma. “By the time I arrived, the bear was feeding on garbage in a dumpster behind a local restaurant. At least a dozen patrons were outside watching and taking photos of the bear from about 25 yards and it was unconcerned by all the activity. It also did not attempt to move away from me, and in fact, stood its ground when I approached to immobilize it.”
Because the bear exhibited no fear of humans, the decision was made to euthanize it.
A 2-year-old male black bear was euthanized on June 28 after being trapped on the Bighorn National Forest.
On June 26, Shorma received reports of the bear approaching campers near Bull Creek. The bear walked within 5 feet of a camper who was in a lawn chair reading a book. No attractants had been left out and the bear showed no sign of fear. Shorma checked other campsites in the area and found bear sign at each of them, including a site where the bear had ripped the screen door from a recreational trailer.
The same bear was reported June 27 at Bear Lodge getting into trash cans and accessing trash left out at a guest cabin after the daily pickup. The bear was then reported at North Tongue Campground walking around a camper trailer.
On the morning of June 28, Game and Fish received a report of a bear near Arrowhead Lodge. The bear accessed unsecured garbage at a dispersed camp trailer and stayed in the area for much of the day. A trap was set at a private cabin nearby and the bear was caught that evening and euthanized.
“I firmly believe that this bear received human food rewards prior to the first call we received about it at Bull Creek,” Shorma said. “The bear made a conscious effort to investigate each and every trailer he encountered at dispersed camp sites in the Bear Lodge and Arrowhead Lodge areas.”
A third bear, a sub-adult male, was euthanized on July 7 after repeatedly accessing unsecured garbage on a property outside Big Horn.
Game and Fish continues to respond to multiple reports of bears accessing human-provided food rewards such as unsecured garbage, domestic animals and bird feeders in Story, Dayton, Banner and on properties near Big Horn.
“Most of these conflicts with bears can be prevented by people making the effort to keep garbage and other attractants out of the reach of bears,” Shorma said. “In almost every contact I have had with property owners, they have said they know they need to keep their attractants secured but choose not to for whatever reason. Some of them have had bear conflicts in the past. We’ve discussed the measures they need to take to prevent future problems, and yet they don’t follow our suggestions. It is also disappointing that some property owners have allowed bears to access their garbage for up to two weeks before calling us to report it. By that time the bear is actively seeking out residences for food and trapping and relocating the bear is no longer an option. Bears who are habituated to human food rewards will either return to the area where they were trapped or will continue this learned behavior in the new area they are moved to.”
Trapping and relocating a bear is the preferred option in cases when conflicts are reported to Game and Fish immediately and the bear is removed from the area before unnatural behavior becomes ingrained. The three bears that were relocated had retained their fear of humans when approached and had not received repeated food rewards.