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— Black bears, though not common in the immediate area, have been sighted but they are more prevalent in the eastern part of Benton County. Bears have even been encountered inside the city limits of Rogers.

People should be “bear aware” of the hazards posed by increasing black bear populations in Arkansas even though attacks are rare, says Rebecca Mc-Peake, Extension wildlife specialist with the U of A Division of Agriculture.

“Most bears avoid direct contact with humans,” she says. “Bear attacks are so rare that a person is 180 times more likely to die from a bee sting or 160,000 times more likely to die in a traffic accident than die from a bear attack.”

McPeake provides the following information onhow a person encountering a black bear should react:

When in bear habitat, be alert. Look for paw prints, droppings, claw marks on trees and ripped-open logs, and evidence of digging. Rare bear attacks are usually made by a bear that has fed on garbage, been hand-fed or approached by humans or was in poor physical condition due to old age, disease or wounds.

“A bear’s natural fear of people can be eroded over time as it learns to associate people with food,” says McPeake.

Black bears are smart and often unpredictable.

“No hard and fast rules can be applied when dealing with an animal as intelligent as a bear,” says McPeake.

Bear encounters are classified in two ways: surprise - or defensive - encounters or predatory encounters, when a bear is hunting for food.

Encounter Action

Stay calm and stand your ground, says McPeake, or move away slowly. Try to intimidate the bear by shouting, banging objects together or hitting it with a rock or a stick. Unless an attack is imminent, playing dead is not recommended.

Do not run - the bear may give chase. Bears may appear slow and awkward but can reach speeds of 30 mph.

An encounter with a female and her cubs can be dangerous. Never approach lone cubs. “Do not assume cubs have been abandoned,” says McPeake. “The mother is probably nearby and ready to defend her cubs if you approach them.”

In case of a predatory encounter playing dead can worsen the situation. “Fight back as aggressively as possible,” says McPeake. Yell, scream and strike the bear in the eyes and snout if possible.

Capsaicin, or pepper, spray has been used effectively to deter black bears. “Bear sprays should only be applied directly to the bear and in its face if possible,” says McPeake. Do not apply this spray to equipment, as it will attract bears.

Preventing Problems

The best strategy for preventing problems with bears is to avoid close contact, says McPeake. As a rule, avoid getting closer than 100 yards to a black bear - although there is no guaranteed minimum safe distance.

Here are some other tips for preventing problem encounters with bears:

When camping, keep food out of the tent, wash dishes and maintain a clean campsite.

Store food in airtight containers and away from where bears can smell or gain access to it. Burn and store garbage; never bury it.

When hiking, make noise - talk, whistle or sing - to avoid surprising a bear. Leave the dogs at home, as they can provoke an attack.

Confine livestock in buildings and pens at night. Pick fruit from orchards as soon as possible, as it may attract bears when wild foods are scarce. Pens, doghouses, beehives and crops should be kept at least 50 yards away from wooded areas.

Keep garbage, pet foods, bird feed and other foods away from bears. Trash left out overnight gives bears time to locate and raid it.

Editor’s Note: The photo below is from the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. Though the report of at least one bear in the area north of Gravette was reported several years ago, none apparently has been verified recently.These “tips” are relevant, not only for Arkansas but for persons traveling to other statesImprovement Grant Sought To Improve Sager Creek In Downtown Siloam Springs

The City of Siloam Springs is seeking a $600,000 grant from the Arkansas Natural Resources Commission to start second phase improvements to Sager Creek in downtown Siloam Springs.

The project, if approved, will involve rock wall and low water bridge work which will improve water flow. Plans involve replacing the bridge with a suspension structure.

News, Pages 8 on 12/02/2009

Print Headline: Bears, Although Rare, Can Pose Serious Problems

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