NEWPORT, Ore. - This is Bear Awareness Week -- but in Oregon, maybe nobody told the bears.
It's been pretty quiet so far, both in terms of the spring bear-hunting season and the number of complaints from property owners about bears raiding trash cans and chicken coops.
This year they haven't had to, said Doug Cottam, a wildlife biologist at the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, because bears are mostly vegetarians, and the mild weather has given them plenty to eat.
"The growing season has been outstanding so far in western Oregon," he said. "The bears obviously have had a lot to eat, and probably haven't had to move around very much. Food's been plentiful, so it hasn't been an issue for them."
Nonetheless, backyard chickens, small livestock, bee boxes, bird feeders, fallen fruit and compost piles all are temptations. And even if the bears can't get to the sources, they can damage property in the process.
If your community allows it, Cottam said, the most effective way to discourage a bear is with an electric fence.
Bear Awareness Week also means being prepared to encounter bears in the wild. Erin Edge, Rockies and Plains associate for the group Defenders of Wildlife, described some of the signs.
"Scat, tracks, rolled-over logs, big dug holes," she said. "Bears hear about as well as we do, so if you're along some of these roaring creeks or things, bears may not hear you coming -- so make noise."
For everyone in bear country, Edge advised carrying bear spray. Oregon's spring bear-hunting season runs through May 31.
Bears in Oregon are black bears, and the population numbers about 25,000 statewide. Cottam said grizzlies used to be native here, and sometimes people still think they see them.
"In places like northeast Oregon, there's a preponderance of colors other than black, like blonde or cinnamon," he said, "and a blonde black bear, they do look a lot like a grizzly bear -- just because of the color, not the size or the shape. Many people will mistake them for grizzly bears."
He said it's unlikely that grizzlies have been in Oregon since the 1930s.
Learn more here: http://www.dfw.state.or.us/wildlife/living_with/black_bears.asp
Chris Thomas of Oregon News Service provided this story.