Bears spotted at Iller Creek; What to do if you encounter a bear

SPOKANE CO., Wash. — Hibernation is over. Bears are roaming near hiking trails once again in the Inland Northwest.

According to Spokane County Parks, Recreation and Golf, someone spotted a mama bear and her two cubs over the weekend. Washington Fish and Wildlife told 4 News Now there have been around five reports this year for bear sightings. None of them aggressive, just digging into local trash bins.

Here in the Inland Northwest, we are fortunate to be surrounded by lush fields and generous wooded areas.

It’s our home. It’s also home to local wildlife.

“It’s exciting. It’s like, this is the place for wildlife. This is the place for us to experience something beautiful and natural,” said Pam Smith, an avid hiker from Spokane.

Different people will react to bears and other wildlife in different ways.

“I’m respectful and I understand it. These guys will just lay right down. If they see a moose, they back off, an they know down on the ground until the animal leaves,” Smith said.

Washington Fish and Wildlife said now is prime bear season. Spring is when they are getting out of hibernation and exploring. They’re also looking for food.

“You’ll often see bears sitting in this kind of grassy area. It’s just a good area because it has a little bit of everything for them,” said Staci Lehman, Washington Fish and Wildlife.

Black bears aren’t typically looking to attack. Washington Fish and Wildlife said Black bears are generally docile animals.

If you see one, just give it space. While you’re hiking or camping, Washington Fish and Wildlife said it’s a good idea to make some noises like clearing your throat or talking to one another. Experts said you don’t want to startle them. Making little noises along the way will let them know someone is nearby. Washington Fish and Wildlife said, that alone, may scare a bear and leave.

“Just as scared of us, as we are of them. They don’t want to be around us. Generally, if you run into them and make a lot of noise, they are going to turn and try to get away from you,” Lehman said.

According to Washington Fish and Wildlife, if a bear starts to get close, you can make loud noises or make yourself look big. But again, stay calm. Do not panic.

“Pretend like you’re bigger than it. Generally, they will turn and go away,” Lehman said.

If the bear continues to approach, or does start acting aggressive, bear spray is a good tool to have in case of an emergency. Washington Fish and Wildlife said bear spray is good to have in your backpack anytime you’re camping or hiking. You can use it for any wild animals, or even people, in a dangerous situation.

But a rule of thumb is to back away and leave bears alone.

“The fact that there is a bear or moose or something up in Iller, just makes it like a true adventure. We learn to respect the environment and the space they’re in. This is their home and we’re visiting,” Smith said.

Other tips from Washington Fish and Wildlife include bringing in your trash bins, especially if you live in a rural area. Bears are looking for food, so they often draw to homes because they find your trash can with old food. Washington Fish and Wildlife said you should also be mindful of trash, if you’re hiking or camping.