Sierra Vista bear sightings increase, residents asked to be "Bear Aware"

A black bear got struck in a tree in Hereford, Arizona early Tuesday afternoon.

Sierra Vista bear sightings increase, residents asked to be "Bear Aware"

CREATED Aug 6, 2012

Web Producer: Ina Ronquillo

SIERRA VISTA, Ariz. (KGUN9-TV/Arizona Game and Fish) - An increase in bear sightings in Sierra Vista is prompting Arizona Game and Fish to ask residents in the area to be more "bear aware" and take precautions.

Mark Hart with Arizona Game and Fish tells KGUN9 that  one of more bears has foraged a dumpster, trash cans and a freezer since Wednesday in a residential area south of Vista Grande at the mouth of Miller Canyon.

Back in July, a young bear was in a tree for nearly ten hours in a residential area along Hereford Road east of Highway 92 after being seen roaming the community. The bear climbed down and left the area after dark.

Both communities are in proximity to areas of the Huachuca Mountains burned by the Monument Fire last year.  Habitat impacts caused by the fire, coupled with two consecutive dry winters and intermittent seasonal rains, make it important for area residents to secure their garbage inside until the morning of pickup and keep pet food inside, among another precautions, to ensure against bears coming into conflict with humans.

Bears are good climbers, so to reduce a bear's ability to get over a fence, it should be at least six feet tall and constructed of non-climbable material.
Recognizing the potential risk to both humans and bears, the Arizona Game and Fish Department spends considerable time and money each year relocating bears. Some bears must be destroyed because they are considered too dangerous, have lost their fear of humans, or continue to get into conflicts with people.

If a bear is in your yard or neighborhood and refuses to leave, immediately contact the Game and Fish office at (520) 628-5376 or at (800) 352-0700 evenings, weekend and holidays. Depending on what the bear is doing, department personnel may respond if it remains in the area.

If you see a bear in the distance, alter your route to avoid it. On the rare occasion that a bear approaches you, discourage it by:

  • Making yourself as large and imposing as possible. Stand upright and wave your arms, jacket or other items, and make loud noises.
  • Do not run and never play dead.
  • Give the bear a chance to leave the area.
  • If the bear does not leave, stay calm, continue facing it, and slowly back away.

The black bear is the only bear species found in the state. Although fur color varies and includes brown, cinnamon and blond, they are all considered black bears. It is the smallest and most widely distributed North American bear.

Black bears:

  • Weigh 125-400 pounds with males being larger than females
  • Are three- to three-and-a-half feet tall when on all four feet
  • Eat primarily acorns, berries, insects and cactus fruits
  • Live in most forest, woodland and chaparral habitats, and desert riparian areas
  • Roam an area of 7 to 15 square miles
  • Produce two to three cubs born in January or February
  • Live up to 25 years in the wild,
  • Most active between dawn and dusk.

Bears are classified as big game animals in Arizona and are protected by state law. It is unlawful to feed wildlife, including bears, in Pima and Cochise counties. Violations can result in a fines ranging from $300 in Pima County to $2,500 in Cochise of up to $300.