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Bears want snacks

Posted by: Kirsten Pisto, Communications

We are getting so excited for our ninth annual Bear Affair: Pacific Northwest Conservation day presented by Brown Bear Car Wash on June 8!

At Woodland Park Zoo’s Bear Affair, 700-pound grizzly bear brothers, Keema and Denali, show us why it is important to be bear-safe in the Pacific Northwest. Whether you are hiking and camping in the mountains or simply spending the summer in your own backyard, being bear-safe can help protect you and your family as well as keep our Northwest wildlife safe.

Woodland Park Zoo teamed up with local singer Star Anna to create a song about our favorite bear-safety tips. Rock out to the song this summer and remember the rules!

  • Don’t leave those treats out: dog food, bird seed ( in the winter), barbecue scraps, camping dishes and snacks, anything that smells tasty such as toothpaste, deodorant, sunscreen and hairspray can be an attractant for bears. Clean it up!
  • They sniff for garbage: A bear-proof garbage can is the best way to stop midnight snacking at the curb.
  • Use bear cans and ropes:  When you camp, practice bear-safe food storage while you are in the back country. Hang your food and other attractants at least 100 yards downwind from your tent.
  • No marshmallows in your sleeping bag: Duh! Keep anything that might smell like food far away from your sleeping gear and tent.
  • No Chanel in the woods: You don't need to wear cologne in the woods, deodorant should be unscented (better for you too) and be mindful of strong fruity-scented shampoos etc.

Bears don’t usually associate people with food, but they are opportunistic snackers. A bear lured to camp by hot dogs or marshmallows may learn that campgrounds and campsites provide easy snacking. The bear will remember this and continue to seek out places that people frequent, which is dangerous for the people and for the bears. Once a bear becomes food-conditioned and habituated, wildlife agencies may be forced to kill it. It is important to remember that 'a fed bear is a dead bear.'

Regular garbage cans don’t stand a chance against grizzlies (or black bears), but a bear-proof garbage can holds its own. The bears are able to smash the cans and dent them, but they don’t get inside! Photo by Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo.

By following basic precautions of proper food storage and camp cleanliness, campers can minimize encounters with bears and help protect them in the wild. Similarly, your backyard can be bear-safe by keeping attractants such as a messy barbecue or pet food cleaned up.

Definitely not what you want! Keema and Denali dwarf a tent during the 2012 Bear Affair mock campsite. Photo by Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo.

For more tips on bear-safe camping and bear-safe backyards visit our partners at Western Wildlife Outreach and check out their detailed list Tips for Coexistence with Grizzles.

Always be bear aware. If we do our part to keep attractants contained when camping or living in bear country, practice bear safety and give these animals plenty of space, we can help protect not just bears but people too.
See you on June 8 for our ninth annual Bear Affair: PacificNorthwest Conservation! Scientist and conservationist Chris Morgan will be joining us at Bear Affair this year!  

To learn more about carnivore conservation and other northwest wildlife, visit

Special thanks to Star Anna for lending us her beautiful vocals for this song (and the zoo's own Elizabeth Bacher for the backup vocals!) and thank you to Joel Casey Jones for his incredible recording skills! 

Video Produced by Kirsten Pisto
Vocals by Star Anna:
All recording and mixing by Joel Casey Jones:
Assistant producer and backup vocals by Elizabeth Bacher
Lyrics by Kirsten Pisto

Original music copyright Chris Butler 1982, available at  This title is a cover of I Know What Boys Like as made famous by Waitresses

Copyright 2013 Woodland Park Zoo


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Anonymous said…
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