Black bears are a rare sight to see in the winter around hereaccording to the Arizona Game and Fish Department, they spend most of December through March in a state of semi-hibernation called torpor. It helps bears conserve energy when food supplies may be sparse.

Now that spring is in the air, those venturing into black bears’ natural habitatthe only bear species in the state of Arizonawill want to take necessary precautions not to attract them to yards, campsites and other areas where bears might be inclined to mingle with their human neighbors.

AZGFD calls it being “BearWise,” because ultimately too much human interaction is a dangerous prospect for any wild animal, and particularly bears.

According to AZGFD, the first confirmed black bear signing of 2023 was recorded off Mt. Lemmon Highway near Peppersauce Canyon. Spokespeople for the department estimated the bear to be a couple years old, weighing around 150 pounds.

Bears in search of food are often attracted to homes and into proximity with people. This close contact puts both humans and bears at risk. Most conflicts are the result of people unintentionally feeding bears, most often by allowing them access to household garbage, bird feeders, garden areas or trees bearing fruit, said Raul Vega, Regional Supervisor of Game and Fish in Tucson.

Fed bears can lose their fear of humans and begin to associate humans with food, sometimes causing property damage and even injuring people. But conflicts between humans and bears are preventable.

Steps AZGFD says anyone can take to prevent attracting bears:

Secure garbage bins until the morning of trash collection Do not leave pet food outdoors Clean off grills, smokers and other outside cooking surfaces after use When camping, never bring food into a tent Use bear boxes when available If no bear box is available, use deodorizing sprays if storing food in a car Clean yourself and change clothes after cooking at camp, to remove lingering food smells from your person

AZGFD says fences, lighting and dogs are not effective long-term bear deterrents.

If you do spot a bear that refuses to leave a populated area like your neighborhood or a campground, call AZGFD (623) 236-7201.

They remind the public that when bears become accustomed to human-populated areas, they do sometimes need to be removedthis can be traumatic for it, as well as dangerous. Bears who lose their fear of humans end up getting put down because of increased risk.

Prevention, they say, is the best bet for the safety of the animal and people involved. Rememberblack bears are protected by state law, and fines for feeding or harming them can range from $300 in Pima and Pinal Counties to $2,500 in Cochise County. has additional resources and reading materials about black bears in Arizona.