Arizona Game and Fish Asks that you Don’t Feed the Bears

Residents and visitors should be vigilant not to feed or provide water for bears

PHOENIX— The Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD) reminds everyone to be Bear Aware, following separate incidents where habituated bears became a public safety threat and needed to be humanely euthanized under department policy.

On Monday, AZGFD wildlife managers removed a sub-adult male bear from the north Phoenix neighborhood of Anthem that had previously been relocated from Prescott. On Sunday, officers in the White Mountains were forced to remove a habituated female bear feeding on large piles of food and water left by a local resident.

The same female bear had been captured in Pinetop in June, 2017 and was relocated to a pre-approved release site near the Mogollon Rim, approximately 55 miles away. In May, it returned to Pinetop with two cubs. A day after euthanizing the bear, neighbors told AZGFD about the bear’s two cubs, which were safely located, evaluated by a local veterinarian and transferred to Bearizona in Williams.

A bear that was aggressively attempting to enter a residence in Payson was captured and euthanized by wildlife officers from the AZGFD.

Payson resident Joseph Stapp was asleep Tuesday evening when he heard a loud crash on the porch of the home he is building. He went to the door to see what was going on and got an unpleasant surprise.

“I looked out the front door, and the bear and I were face to face,” said Stapp. “He was pushing on the door, and I was pushing back. I was not scared, but I couldn’t shoo him.”

It was the third day in a row the bear had visited, causing property damage on the front and back porches. A neighbor was able to scare it off temporarily on Tuesday night by throwing rocks, but the bear returned later that night and again on Wednesday. The homeowner reported to AZGFD that the bear had gotten into a garbage can containing dog food several times earlier in the week, so he secured the can inside his home.

When the bear returned, it attempted to enter his home, and Stapp called 911. Wildlife officers from AZGFD live-trapped the adult male bear at the residence, evaluated it, and according to policy euthanized it because of the bear’s aggressive behavior and lack of fear toward humans.

“When a bear becomes habituated to people for food and water, it can become a real threat to public safety,” AZGFD Wildlife Manager Shawn Wagner said. “People feeding wildlife think they’re helping wildlife, but they’re putting everyone’s safety at risk — whether it’s a neighbor out walking their pet or a family out for a jog.  When a bear doesn’t get the meal it’s become accustomed to, it can attack whoever is around.”

Under department’s human-wildlife conflict policy, wildlife officers consider the bear’s behavior, age, sex and whether it’s a threat to human safety when determining when to relocate or lethally remove a bear.

The department spends considerable time and resources each year to remove or relocate habituated bears to minimize the risk to people. However, relocating a bear doesn’t always solve the problem. Approximately half of all bears relocated will return to where they were captured, no matter how great the distance.

Extended drought conditions also make it more difficult for bears to find natural food and water sources, increasing the chances that bears will visit neighborhoods. Bears become habituated to human-related food sources and quickly lose their fear of humans. As such, people should remove bird seed, hummingbird feeders, pet food and trash from their homes.

People should never intentionally feed wildlife.

Do your part to keep bears from posing a threat and needing to be removed:

  • Keep all trash inside a secured area until collection day. If that’s not possible, keep food waste in a bag in the freezer and place those in the trash as close to collection time as possible.
  • If you’ll be out of town or are a weekend visitor, ask a neighbor to place your trash out on collection day.
  • Take bird feeders down at night.
  • Keep pet food inside or remove all uneaten food.

Call 911 if you’re in a life-threatening situation with a bear. To report a bear sighting in an urban area or neighborhood, please contact your local AZGFD office or the department’s Radio Room at (623) 236-7201.