Fall is binge-eating time for bears. The widely distributed American black bear, Ursus americanus, dens during the winter, typically from...

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Fall is binge-eating time for bears.

The widely distributed American black bear, Ursus americanus, dens during the winter, typically from mid-October into April. Fall is a critical season for black bears. They may forage up to 20 hours a day to gain fat to survive the winter, increasing their body weight by 35 percent. Denning bears are not hibernating, they enter a state of torpor, a drowsy modification of hibernation.

Ninety-five percent of the bear-conflict calls to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife are the result of totally preventable encounters. Bear wants food; you leave food out; bear takes your food.

A Fish and Wildlife customer-service specialist told me: “People can’t believe that a bear would climb an apple tree and break branches just to get to the apples. Or knock over a grill to lick off the leftover grease. Or that bird feeders are a main source of attraction. They just don’t get it that they have to remove food sources from their yards!”

The No. 1 rule for managing wildlife conflicts is to remove the source of attraction. Take garbage into the garage, provide bird feeders only from November through March, clean up under fruit trees and harvest the fruit.

Lastly, burn off the grease and food chunks from the grill for a minute or two after you are finished eating. Or you can always invite the bears to clean it for you.

Patricia Thompson is a wildlife biologist with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

To reach her, and find wildlife-viewing tips, at http://wdfw.wa.gov.