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Drought has Arizona bears on prowl for food, water

Bears at the Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center investigate a cooler. (Photo: Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center)

PHOENIX -- Summertime in northern Arizona means camp-outs and a chance encounter with bears.

Arizona is in a long-term drought which means bears are hungry and thirsty. Forest Road 171 was closed recently near Young, Ariz., east of Payson, because of an increase in bear sightings. It will be closed to camping until the area has been cleared of bears.

"They're hurting right now and looking for food sources and if they can find an easy source in your tent or a cooler, they'll go for it and they will keep returning to that campsite," said Kim Carr with the Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center. "If they become a nuisance they will have to be removed or destroyed, unfortunately."

The Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center is offering its annual "Be Bear Aware" event Tuesday to teach people about bear safety and how to reduce the risk of attracting a bear to campsites. Carr said bears can smell food for miles. Anything that has the aroma of food needs to be stored away.

"Cooking utensils, even the clothes you cook in will attract bears and shouldn't be stored in a tent. You need to dispose of food properly and store it properly. "

Reservations and a $30 pre-payment are required for Tuesday's event. To register, call (480) 471-3621 or sign up on the group's website. The Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center is located on 156th Street south of Rio Verde in Scottsdale.

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About the Author


Position: Senior News Reporter. Started with KTAR July 4, 1999.

Favorite food: Steak and shrimp, and any food on campouts.

Favorite spots in Arizona: Pinetop-Lakeside, Alpine, Greer.

Favorite news memory: The Wallow Fire in 2011 became the largest fire in state history. Rodeo-Chediski Fire in June 2002, which is the second largest fire in Arizona. The 2007 Southern California Firestorm and being at Sky Harbor Airport when the first plane lifted off several days after 9-11. Seeing the American flag on the tail of the Salt Lake City-bound Delta airliner as it took off still gives me goosebumps.

Favorite movies: True Grit, both 1969 John Wayne classic and the remake with Jeff Bridges -- which was outstanding --, Lonesome Dove.

First job: Spinning records at KLER Radio Orofino, Idaho 1980.

First concert: KISS/Cheap Trick 1977 Spokane, WA Coliseum.

Sports Teams: Washington State University Cougars, The University of Montana Grizzlies and Texas Rangers.

Outside interests: Sports, camping, fishing, traveling.

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