Recently Fort Huachuca and Sierra Vista have seen an increase in bear activity. From the canyons of the Huachuca Mountains down to the east end of Sierra Vista there have been no fewer than six calls to Arizona Game and Fish Department regarding bears in the area. One was spotted as far east as Foothills Drive and Highway 92, and recently one made an appearance on Brown Parade Field.
The Garden Canyon area has received much attention, as weekend training took place at both Sites Papa and Uniform. Unfortunately, a bear on post was killed due to its desire to fatten up on free meals before winter’s arrival. It is unfortunate because it didn’t have to happen; people can prevent this from happening again.
Black bears, the only bears found in Arizona no matter what their color, are perfectly adapted to live in the natural environment. They mainly subsist on a variety of plant parts, such as nuts, berries, and grasses. In the fall, bears eat great amounts of food to prepare for winter. They are opportunistic eaters and will, if given a chance, eat anything with a high caloric value. This includes trash, bird feeder food, fruit from trees, pet food and more.
The bear that was removed this weekend had been spotted many times before. He is likely the bear seen during many of the recent sightings. Last week, he was seen eating out of the dumpsters at Sites Papa and Uniform. After being chased away, he returned several times. Over the weekend, he was chased away from the training area again and walked into the cantonment area where he was shot due to being a hazard to Soldiers doing their physical training. This bear had become so acclimated to the trash being his food source that he had lost all fear of the humans who made it available.
All Fort Huachuca personnel need to make an effort to exclude bears from eating food made available through human sources. Lids on all dumpsters must be left closed at all times. Trash cans must be secured where bears cannot get to them and lids should be on tightly. Wait until the morning of trash pick-up to take the trash to the curb.
Bears in the wild must never be fed either on purpose or by accident. It is illegal. Bird feeders must be at least eight feet off the ground. Fruit trees should be harvested as soon as practical. Do not leave pet food outside.
Once a bear has lost its fear of humans, it may become very bold — bold enough to invade campsites and take people’s food. All food should be secured so bears cannot get to it, such as in the car, preferably in the trunk where they cannot see coolers which some bears have come to recognize as food sources. If camping, wrap food and tie the bundle with a rope. Sling the rope over the branch of a tree and tie the bundle so it is at least 10 feet off the ground. Also secure cosmetics and toiletries in the same manner.
These steps must be taken to ensure safety of both people and the bears that share the areas. Feeding bears, even unintentionally, is a violation of Arizona state law and of Fort Huachuca policy. Do not feed the bears. “A fed bear is a dead bear.”