A long winter and low-elevation snow are driving black bears from the North Cascades into campgrounds and backyards looking for food.
They just came out of hibernation, so they are hungry.
In the absence of sufficient bear food, they forage people cuisine, enjoying picnics stored in ice chests, snacking from backyard bird feeders, tasting camping snacks left in the tent and scarfing leftover pizza and beer thrown into the garbage.
"Bears are lazy, if the food is hard to get they usually go on to find something easy," said wildlife biologist Jessie Plumage for the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest.
That can pose a threat to humans, as demonstrated by Woodland Park Zoo’s grizzlies this month as they tore through an exhibit staged with a tent, lawn chairs, a cooler and pots and pans looking for food.
"Don’t feed the bears," Plumage said.
The Grizzly Bear Outreach Project offers tips to stay safe around bears when camping:
• Avoid camping next to trails or streams as bears and other wildlife use these as travel routes
• Avoid camping near natural bear food sources such as berries
• Never leave food unattended in your campsite unless it is properly stored
• Do not bring food or odorous non-food items into your tent. This includes chocolate, candy, wrappers, toothpaste, perfume, deodorant, feminine hygiene products, insect repellent and lip balm
• Place food in bear-resistant storage containers or store it in your vehicle
• Locate your cooking area at least 100 yards downwind from your tent
• Avoid cooking greasy or odorous foods
• Wash all dishes and cans immediately after eating. Wash the dishes and dump the dishwater at least 100 yards from your campsite
• Garbage should be deposited in bear-resistant garbage cans or stored in your vehicle until it can be dumped
• Look for more information about how to stay safe around bears: http://bearinfo.org/