LANE COUNTY, Ore. (KMTR) - The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife is warning residents of increased bear sightings in the last few weeks.
ODFW said Thursday there aren't many places in Lane County that they haven't gotten reports from recently, including Dexter Lake, Cottage Grove, Veneta and even areas just outside of the Eugene city limits.
In Cottage Grove, at least one report has come in about bears attacking livestock. Another report may have occurred Wednesday night, June 13th on Row River Road. Wolfer said it's pretty rare for that to happen, but it does occur about once or twice a year.
"It's much easier to prevent a bear problem than to address it after the fact," advised Brian Wolfer from Springfield's ODFW facility.
Wolfer told NewsSource 16 it is in fact this time of year that bears start coming out looking for food. The number of reports so far are on track with past years, so nothing statistically has jumped out yet.
Some residents in the Cottage Grove area said they have seen bear droppings and even paw prints on windows.
"The natural berries aren't ripe yet so the bears are eating grass and grubs and other things, but now they're looking for something a little more appetizing," explained Wolfer.
Appetizing or not, bears tend to flock to residential areas when there is easily accessible food.
"Put your garbage cans in your garage or in your shed, when you do go to the dump or have a trash day wash those cans out," Wolfer said. "Watch your compost and pull down your bird feeders for the year."
Wolfer said residents should feed their pets indoors if possible, and if not, to bring in the dish after the pet is done eating to further mitigate wildlife activity. He suggests not only taking care of one's own property, but also acting as a neighborhood.
"Far too often, a bear moves into a neighborhood and gets into garbage and people put it away. It goes to the next house, gets into their garbage and they put away their garbage away. It just moves to the next house," said Wolfer.
In 2011, ODFW recorded that 26 bears were killed in Western Oregon because they were considered human safety risks or nuisances. In that same year, the state of Oregon passed House Bill 2175 prohibiting feeding potentially habituated wildlife including bears.
"Bear problems are predictable in that they almost always involve bears eating human garbage," Wolfer said in a news release. He added that bears will usually return to eating natural forage if those unnatural items become unavailable.
At Spencer's Butte outside of Eugene, signs have been posted warning hikers of recent sightings. Yet, Wolfer said it's more common to see bears in residential areas than near campsites or along trail paths.
ODFW's guidelines for hunter/camper/homeowner bear prevention can be found here: http://www.dfw.state.or.us/wildlife/living_with/black_bears.asp
Furthermore, they told NewsSource 16 bear encounters are fairly rare since bears - who are typically diurnal animals - become nocturnal around populated areas. Encounters do happen once in a while, though, and in those cases ODFW suggests giving the bear an escape route and staying calm. Wolfer said face the bear, back away slowly while talking to it in a firm voice to let it know you are a human. If attacked, he said certainly fight back. Do not make direct eye contact.