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Wood River Valley Forms Coalition To Educate About Human-Wildlife Interactions

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Idaho Fish and Game
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A black bear checks out a bear-resistant garbage dumpster in the Wood River Valley.

Living in Idaho means being surrounded by mountains, rivers and wild animals. In the Wood River Valley, a new coalition will address increasing conflicts between humans and wildlife.

 

The Idaho Department of Fish and Game and Blaine County officials formed the Wood River Valley Wildlife Smart Communities coalition earlier this year. The goal is to educate the public, through workshops and a website, about how to keep people and pets safe and to keep wild animals wild.  

“People in the Wood River Valley love the fact that they can say they live in close proximity to wildlife," said Terry Thompson, the communications manager for Fish and Game’s Magic Valley region. "But there’s also a responsibility with living close to wildlife.”

That includes keeping residential trash secure so black bears don’t get used to relying on human food, Thompson said. This summer, Fish and Game has euthanized one food-conditioned black bear, and it warned last week that a large sow and cub had been getting into garbage cans in Ketchum, making them vulnerable to getting killed, should they become threats to public safety. 

Thompson said the department doesn’t have many options besides euthanization for food-conditioned bears.

In the next few years, Fish and Game would like to see more bear-safe trash bins in the valley.

So far, Blaine County and the cities of Hailey and Ketchum have signed a resolution supporting the coalition, which also mentions safety in regards to mountain lions. 

Usually secretive animals, mountain lions have been frequently spotted in daylight by Wood River Valley residents recently. Last winter, there were more than 90 mountain lion incidents in the valley, ranging from sightings to attacks on cats and dogs. This past Sunday, a lion killed a horse in a pasture west of Hailey.

“Lions are typically very secretive, but what we noticed last year is they would be out on the bike path in the middle of the day. That’s not typical behavior," Thompson said.

Mountain lions have always lived in the area, but their interactions with humans are on the rise, according to Fish and Game.

While Blaine is not among Idaho’s fastest growing counties today, the population of 22,000 has grown considerably from the 6,000 who lived there fifty years ago.

That growth, in and of itself, breeds more interactions, Thompson said.

Fish and Games hopes educating the public on what to do when in proximity to a lion -- like not running away or turning your back -- will make an attack on a human even more unlikely.

 

Find reporter Rachel Cohen on Twitter @racheld_cohen 

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