A black bear spotted a few miles outside Sisters on Thursday evening is likely to leave the area unless residents give it a reason to stay, according to a state wildlife biologist.
Gene Baldwin reported the bear after spotting it a little after 6:30 p.m. at his home on Fadjur Lane, about eight miles east of Sisters.
Baldwin said he was out feeding his horses when he noticed one that seemed skittish and was intently watching something on the edge of the pasture. Following the horse’s gaze, Baldwin spotted a medium to large adult black bear on the other side of his fence.
“I was very surprised and excited to see one,” Baldwin said. “We get elk coming through here — though not in the last few years — but a black bear, that’s something different.”
Baldwin headed to his house to fetch his binoculars, and watched the bear wander off. Concerned about neighbors that keep miniature goats and other animals the bear might target, he contacted the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office to help alert others in the neighborhood.
Steven George, a wildlife biologist with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, said while black bears will seek out deer and elk fawns, they’ll eat anything and don’t tend to follow the migration routes of such animals.
In their first few months after coming out of hibernation in February or March, black bears will wander widely in search of food, George said.
“They’re pretty skinny; they’ve used up a lot of their fat reserves hibernating, so they’re pretty hungry and out looking for food,” he said. An estimated 34,000 to 35,000 black bears live in Oregon, George said, with the heaviest concentrations along the east slope of the Cascades.
The Sheriff’s Office is advising residents near the bear sighting to keep their garbage cans and other potential sources of food out of reach. Pet food, compost piles, fruit fallen from trees, unclean barbecues and even scented candles, soap or suntan lotion left unattended can attract bears, according to a news release from the Sheriff’s Office.
George said it’s good advice, as it doesn’t take a bear long to figure out where easy sources of food can be found.
“Very quickly and very easily,” he said. “If a bear gets rewarded with garbage or food, they’ll remember that, and they will continue to come back for that.”
Bears have appeared in the Sisters area before, most recently and notably in 2010, when a black bear camped out up a tree in Village Green Park above a crowd of onlookers. In that instance, wildlife officials attempted to lure the bear into a live trap baited with cantaloupe and barbecue sauce, but the bear climbed down and walked out of town on its own.
Baldwin said he suspects the bear that showed up at his house Thursday had come up from the nearby McKenzie Canyon, and has probably moved on.
“I don’t think well ever see this guy again,” he said. “I think he was just wandering though looking for food, and by now, he’s miles from here.”