Cubs grow up to be 'classic nuisance bears'

Cubs grow up to be 'classic nuisance bears'

MAPLETON, Ore. - Bears, bears, they're everywhere - so don't give them anything to eat.

Residents have reported seeing bears, shooting bears and hitting bears with their cars all along Oregon's central coast and inland toward Eugene, said Doug Cottam with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife in Newport, Ore.

"I had been personally expecting a year that was probably worse than last year," Cottam said. "There were a lot of cubs born last year. I literally had many reports of sows with triplets. All those cubs are now yearlings, and it's time for them to be weened from their mother."

Cottam called these yearlings "the classic nuisance bear."

"Most of those youngsters, on their own for the first, typically are the number one call we get," he said.

Older bears are the "kings of the forest" and force young bears out of their territory - and some of those bears show up in towns like Mapleton and Walton.

"Sows with cubs, one reason they are so protective of their young cubs is male bears will kill them and eat them," Cottam explained.

And when the bears grow up near an urban area, you get the problem Florence faces, Cottam said: urban residential bears that are completely accustomed to living with people. Cubs are "human-habituated" when they become young adults and strike off on their own.

The result: conflicts between bears and humans.

A few weeks ago, a Mapleton homeowner legally shot and killed a bear on his property, Cottam said.

Shortly after that, a younger bear was seen in the middle of the day when it was hit by a car in Mapleton.

Two hours later, ODFW got another call about bear in Mapleton.

And just Wednesday afternoon, Cottam said he had another report of a bear along Highway 36.

"We have lots of phone calls from the Florence area, several from Yachats, several along Highway 34," he said. He is also aware of at least four bears hit by cars along Highway 126 between Eugene and the Coast.

"The whole middle of the Oregon Coast inward toward Eugene seems to have a lot of problems right now," he said.

And Cottam said his fellow wildlife biologists elsewhere in Oregon are also fielding lots of bear complaints, too.

What can you do to prevent - or reduce - problems with bears?

"If a bear is visiting your property and it's getting food, take the food away," Cottam said. "It's the reason they are there. They will come back if they get something to eat."

Cottam suggested:

  • Putting electric fences around bee hives
  • Locking garbage cans securely inside a garage
  • Feeding pets inside or bringing pet food inside at night
  • Feeding birds only enough for the day or waiting to resume feeding birds until winter, when birds are hungry - and bears are hibernating