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Feeding wildlife creating ‘mess’ in Sandpoint, Idaho

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SANDPOINT, Idaho (AP) – The Idaho Department of Fish & Game is issuing its perennial reminder to the public that feeding wildlife is a bad idea.

“It’s happening all over the county and this is the time of year when it starts to happen,” said Matt Haag, a Fish & Game conservation officer.

Feeding of moose and bear are of particular concern in Bonner County.

Some landowners are putting out foods such as bread, carrots and other treats for moose in Sandpoint.

“When they get rich food like carrots, it can make them sick. And then they are getting habituated, especially if people are feeding them out of their hands,” said Haag. “A lot of people are doing that because they think it’s cute. It’s a mess.”

Sandpoint has something of a love-hate relationship with moose.

Most seem happy to see them mosey through neighborhoods or post up in a yard to feed on tree branches and woody debris, but some get miffed when one of the ungulates gorges on their heirloom tulips.

“I’ve only had a few complaints from people who flat-out said, ‘These moose have got to get moved out of town,’ ” Haag said.

But Fish & Game won’t relocate a moose unless it’s aggressive and poses a public safety hazard. The potent tranquilizers can be fatal to humans, which means trouble if a dope dart misses the mark and winds up lost in a snowbank or bushes.

The city has been approached about adopting an ordinance, but for now is opting for a campaign to educate residents on how they can peacefully coexist with moose.

Feeding bears in Bonner County continues to be a problem, as evidenced by the IDFG Sandpoint Facebook page. A recent photo posted to the page shows a prostrate man feeding a large black bear mouth-to-mouth as two other bears hover nearby.

Although the act is breathtakingly foolish and a front-runner for a Darwin Award, it’s not illegal.

Fish & Game approached Bonner County in 2010 to request the passage of an ordinance to ban feeding bears, but commissioners at that time showed no interest. They contended it was an issue best regulated at the state level, among other things.

Haag said a statewide prohibition may be problematic because only parts of the state have bear habitat. However, he's not ruled out working with lawmakers to help develop region-specific legislation to forbid feeding bears.

There were 770 nuisance bear calls in 2010, a number which was influenced by a poor huckleberry yield. Nuisance bear calls have fallen in subsequent years because huckleberry have been more plentiful.

It won’t be known until July or August if there will a good or bad huckleberry year this year.

“If we have a complete failure, the bears start to come out and look for other food sources, and that’s when the problems really start to happen,” Haag said.

Some are exacerbating the problem further by drawing in bears with cracked corn and molasses-laced oats for their personal amusement, unaware or uncaring that they’re jeopardizing not only their safety, but the safety of their neighbors.

“That person is creating a dangerous situation through his behavior,” Haag said.


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