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Arizona Game and Fish urges campers, hikers to be ‘bear aware’

At the beginning of the summer camping season, the Arizona Game and Fish Department is reminding people to be aware of bears.

Most conflicts are because people unintentionally feed bears. The animals raid dumpsters, garbage cans, grills and campsites looking for food.

To avoid conflicts, experts say campers should keep items secured and inaccessible to bears. Never keep food in a tent, don’t burn left-overs or trash on the grill and set up a campsite away from creeks and other water, where bears might search for food. If you come across a bear, back away slowly while maintaining eye contact. Make yourself look bigger by flaunting your arms and pulling your shirt above your head. Throwing items and yelling is also recommended. A bear will usually leave unless it’s been conditioned to people and their food.

“If a bear becomes habituated to getting food from trash cans and other human sources, it’s only a matter of time before it loses its fear of humans and begins to actively search out human food sources,” said Larry Phoenix, AZGFD regional supervisor in Flagstaff. “At that point, the bear becomes a threat to public safety.”

If a bear loses its fear of people and is considered too dangerous, it will be euthanized.

According to the Arizona Game and Fish Department’s website, the black bear is the only species still found in Arizona. Its fur can be black, brown, reddish-brown and dark blond.

Black bear highlights from Arizona Game and Fish

  • Weighs 125-400 pounds in Arizona. Males are larger than females. 3 to 3 ½ feet tall when on all four feet, and 5 to 6 feet long, with a short, inconspicuous tail.
  • Lives up to 25 years in the wild.
  • Most active at dawn and dusk (crepuscular).
  • Signs of activity include large tracks with claw marks (the hind print is somewhat like a human’s footprint), somewhat round droppings, digging, large overturned rocks and logs, and garbage from dumpsters or cans scattered good distances.
  • Threatened or stressed adults will make sounds, including woofing, hissing, popping of teeth, and grunting.
As a senior field correspondent, Christina Estes focuses on stories that impact our economy, your wallet and public policy.