The 1½-year-old male black bear that raided trash cans in the Morgan Road area of east Sedona was euthanized in Flagstaff after its capture June 26.
The Arizona Game and Fish Department’s policy is to euthanize bears that become habituated to humans.
“Euthanizing an animal is the last thing we want to do. The decision to euthanize is not done haphazardly,” said Shelly Shepherd, the Information and Education Program manager for Arizona Game and Fish Department’s Region II, headquartered in Flagstaff.
“We have a policy in place in human-wildlife conflicts,” Shepherd said. The game and fish department’s bear policy was developed with public input, she said.
This particular black bear was first caught after it began raiding trash cans near the Crook Campground at Woods Canyon Lake, near Heber-Overgaard along the Mogollon Rim, on June 10.
“It was causing some issues over there,” Shepherd said.
The bear was tagged and relocated some distance away. It began to move west, and was sighted in the Blue Ridge area the week of June 14. Shepherd said that game and fish department officials couldn’t confirm the bear’s identity.
If an animal encroaches on human settlements, it is removed in hope that it will resume “going on doing what normal bears do,” Shepherd said.
It appeared in the Sedona area June 21, traveling about 80 miles from the Woods Canyon Lake area. It raided trash cans in the Morgan Road and Chapel areas for six days.
Shepherd said she was uncertain why the bear moved so far so fast, but the bear could have been looking for food or been chased away by other bears, who have already established territories.
A younger male, the bear may have been wandering to establish its own territory.
For the most part, bears avoid human development and have few problems finding food. Omnivorous, bears eat acorns from oak trees, grubs and insects, and berries from manzanita and other plants, Shepherd said. They also eat fish and small mammals, and may scavenge deer and elk carcasses. Rarely, they may make a kill themselves.
Related to canines, bears have long snouts and are able to smell food from miles away.
“Right now there are good conditions for bears to find food,” Shepherd said.
Bears look for the easiest food sources they can find, and once they become habituated to humans begin to rely solely on humans for food. Habituated bears seek unsecured trash cans, food and water left out for pets, and food left out intentionally or unintentionally by humans, Shepherd said.
After the black bear was euthanized, its body was disposed of in a portion of a landfill for animal carcasses.
Recovered animals that die of natural causes or are struck by vehicles are often deposited in remote areas where they can decompose naturally.
However, animals shot by tranquilizers or firearms can not be left in the wild due to the possible contamination by tranquilizer chemicals or lead bullets, Shepherd said. Scavenging birds and mammals could be poisoned.
Rarely, an animal skull or hide might be salvaged by game and fish officials for educational purposes.
Giving an animal to a research institution is a rare and lengthy process, and only done on a case-by-case basis.
The black bear population is still very healthy in Arizona, Shepherd said.
To prevent other animals from becoming habituated to humans, Shepherd said homeowners along the forest interface should use trash cans with secure lids, only put out trash cans shortly before their collection, avoid leaving food and water for pets outside, and never feed wild animals.