Dangerous critters lurk in the Great Outdoors

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This is the second in a series about dangerous and irritating Eastern Washington Critters.

Bears can be dangerous. There are both black and grizzly bears in Washington State. It is estimated 10, some say 20, grizzly bears are living in Washington, along with 25,000 or more Black bears.

Few bears are found in the Columbia Basin, but once in a while word reaches this desk about one sited. However, other parts of Washington are home to many bears.

A jogger was attacked by a black bear in 2011 about 17 miles northeast of Colville. The female jogger assumed the protective fetal position. The bear swatted at her and then left.

Historical records show there have been five other bear attacks on humans and one reported fatality in Washington. A man was seriously injured by a bear near Lake Wenatchee in 2010.

Fish and Wildlife receives an average of about 417 black bear complaints annually, ranging from glimpses of bears to encounters. Typically, black bears avoid people, but what if you do encounter a bear? Here are some ideas/tips from Fish and Wildlife.

Do everything you can to avoid an encounter with any bear. Prevention is the best advice. Never travel alone, keep small children near you at all times and always make your presence known, simply talking will do the trick. Most experts recommend carrying bear spray when recreating in areas of high bear density.

If you should come in close contact with a bear: Stop, remain calm, and assess the situation. If the bear seems unaware of you, move away quietly when it’s not looking in your direction. Continue to observe the animal as you retreat, watching for changes in its behavior.

If a bear walks toward you, identify yourself as a human by standing up, waving your hands above your head and talking to the bear in a low voice. Don’t use the word bear because a human-food-conditioned bear might associate “bear” with food, as people feeding bears often say “here bear.”

Don’t throw anything at the bear and avoid direct eye contact, which the bear could interpret as a threat or a challenge. If you cannot safely move away from the bear or the bear continues toward you, scare it away by clapping your hands, stomping your feet, yelling and staring the animal in the eyes.

If you are in a group, stand shoulder-to-shoulder and raise and wave your arms to appear intimidating. The more it persists the more aggressive your response should be. If you have bear spray, use it.

Don’t run from the bear unless safety is very near and you are absolutely certain you can reach it, knowing bears can run 35 mph. Climbing a tree is generally not recommended as an escape from an aggressive black bear, as black bears are adept climbers and may follow you up a tree.

Again, carry bear spray. While bear spray and pepper spray may seem similar, products designed to deter humans are not sufficient to deter bears. Everyone living and working in bear country should be aware of, and carry, bear spray.

A few bears have made an appearance during my time in the Great Outdoors. Once, during a fishing trip to British Columbia, one angler was fishing in the same river as me, but above me. He yelled at me and waved. I waved back and continued to fish.

He yelled again and pointed behind me. There, about 50 yards away, stood a large black bear. I yelled and waved my arms, but the bear seemed uninterested. After a few minutes, the bear walked to the river, about 100 yards below me, crossed the river and climbed into the woods.

Grizzly bears

I was scouting the high parts of a mountain with a binocular while hunting deer in an area south of Cashmere. A large bear was in view for about 30 seconds. The animal moved across a rock and it was a grizzly in my estimation.

A few years ago, one of the Spokane television stations had a video of a grizzly on the outskirts of Spokane. Fish and Wildlife identified the animal as a grizzly.

The feds are currently assessing four plans to reintroduce the large bears in Washington. One option is to take no action, another is to restore 200 animals within 25 years. Good grief, haven’t they learned their lesson with the reintroduction of wolves?

Some officials say the animals should recovery naturally, while others worried about potential dangers to people and livestock and the possible economic impact to communities and ranchers.

Do not let them reintroduce Grizzly bears into our state. Natural recovery is the best bet. The Cascade Mountains are not the Rocky Mountains.

A Google search shows the range or territory of one grizzly bear can be between 10 and 380 miles. Can you imagine the feds closing an area from one side of the Cascade Mountain to the other side because of a sow and cub is in the area?

Let grizzly bears enter our state naturally. Now, I would support sending a few of these large bears to California. Plus, the feds should start restoring endangered species of fish, wildlife and birds back east, say in New York, Delaware or Rhode Island, before putting the problem animals in our neighborhood.

Next week: We continue our series about dangerous and irritating critters in the Great Outdoors.

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