Are we seeing more black bears this year? Fish and Wildlife officials weigh in

SEATTLE -- They've been spotted in a backyard in Everett. A tree in Renton. And darted in Lakewood.

Black bears. Up and down the Puget Sound. Q13 News receives news tips almost daily about sightings in backyards or playgrounds.

All tips and photographs of the little scampers got us wondering: Are there more bears than normal this year?

Well, no, says Washington State Fish And Wildlife Captain Alan Myers. The population of about 25,000-30,000 black bears in the state has remained steady.

But there are reasons why we're seeing more bears around.

Bears sightings are common this time of year, Myers says. As bears come out of hibernation, they're in search of food. Bird feeders, grills and packed garbage cans make for easy sources.

"Bears love easy sources of food, especially when they're coming out of hibernation and they're really hungry," Myers said.

More people are also encroaching on bear territory, Myers says. As population expands to rural areas, people are more likely to encounter bears, Myers says.

"There's not more bears than usual," Myers said.

Bears have been awake and roaming for about a month. As humans too wake from their winter slumber, the two species are more likely to run into each other. And with the proliferation of cell phone cameras, a lot of people are snapping bear pics.

"People are outside and the more people that are outside, the more are going to encounter bears foraging and bears doing what they do," Myers said.

State wildlife officials hear hundreds of black bear complaints each year. The number one reason for conflict - accounting for 95 percent of the calls - is irresponsibility on the part of people, officials say.

"Access to trash, pet food, bird feeders and improper storage of food while camping make up the majority of calls," wildlife officials said.

Myers offers these tips for keeping black bears away from your property:

    Remember: Black bears tend to avoid humans, but human-habituated bears can become aggressive after losing their natural fear or wariness around people.

    If you come close with a black bear: