Food-conditioned black bear charges Ketchum resident

A Ketchum woman had a face-to-face encounter with an aggressive black bear early Wednesday morning, June 23 when a late night walk through her neighborhood took a serious turn when she faced a food-conditioned bear in the area of lower Warm Springs in Ketchum. The neighborhood streets were lined with garbage carts prior to pick-up the next day, which attracts black bears into area neighborhoods looking for an easy high-calorie meal. While the direct encounter was alarming, no physical contact was made and the woman did not suffer any physical injury.

Reports of a very large black bear began to come into the Ketchum Police Department on the evening of June 22 that a bear had been seen in an area of lower Warm Springs, prompting local officers to patrol and notify residents who were opportunistically outside their homes. Later that evening, a local resident took a walk, with a headlamp and bear spray on her hip. Within minutes, the bear and woman crossed paths, leading to the bear exhibiting aggressive postures and vocalizations, and ultimately charging at her causing her to retreat to a neighborhood house. The encounter happened so fast, she was not able to even take the bear spray out of the holster.

The primary cause of this incident is unsecured residential garbage placed where wildlife, especially bears, can get access to human food. It is too common throughout the Wood River Valley for residents to place their garbage carts curbside the evening before pickup, which is setting the dinner table for animals that can now access household garbage. Over-filling carts with garbage is also common, which allows easy access for animals to get a food reward.

Numerous trash carts were turned over this week by the black bear. Mike Goitiandia, owner of Clear Creek Disposal urges residents to not place their carts curbside until the morning of pickup. Goitiandia stated, “Our trucks don’t leave the yard until 7:00 a.m. which gives residents ample time to put out their carts the morning of pickup.”

A culvert trap has been placed in the area to trap the food-conditioned bear. Because the bear has shown aggressive behaviors the bear will be euthanized once it’s captured.

“The last thing we want to do is euthanize bears” stated Conservation Officer Brandyn Hurd, “but once we have a bear that is showing no fear of humans, and that acts aggressively towards people the outcome is clear that we must take action to protect public safety.” He added, “It’s actually a simple fix. If residents will secure their garbage and not let bears and other wildlife access it, the need to euthanize wildlife will greatly diminish.”

It is anticipated that the drought will bring more wildlife, especially bears, into area communities as natural food sources are impacted and water sources dry up. It is critically important that residents do their part to reduce the opportunities for wildlife to find human-sourced food.

For more information, contact the Magic Valley Regional Office at (208) 324-4359.