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Bears seeking water and forage are showing up on city streets, what you need to know

Six close contact sightings in the last two weeks
Posted at 7:05 PM, May 31, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-01 07:33:06-04

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — Wildlife goes where the water is. That’s part of the reason bears and other wild animals are coming out of the mountains and into our neighborhoods.

Spring and early summer are a time of a lot of change in the world of nature. It can lead to animals who normally live in the mountains, coming down into the valley and way too close to you.

Arizona Game and Fish says people ended up fairly close to black bears six times in the past week or two.

Mark Hart with Game and Fish says at least some of the sightings are young bears whose mothers sent them away to learn how to live on their own.

“They don't know their way around. They may have been driven down the mountain by a larger male bear. But either way, they don't have established territory and don't really know where they're going. The one bear that was in the Catalina Foothills came all the way down to Fort Lowell Park and then turned around and headed back to the hills, although he may still be out in the foothills based on recent reporting.”

A bear attacked a horse in Benson. That animal survived. A bear attacked a goat in San Manuel. That animal died.

Another bear was moved away from Riggs Lake on Mount Graham. It wasn’t threatening people but it was just too comfortable being close to humans.

The drive to find water could be bringing all sorts of animals off the mountain and closer to people. Besides bears that includes animals like mountain lions and javelina.

Mark Hart says you will not outrun a mountain lion or a bear.

“Face forward, stand up straight, wave your arms and yell. In the case of mountain lions maintain direct eye contact. With bears don't do that but do face forward. And if you're attacked, fight back. People have survived attacks from wild animals by fighting back and with bears one thing to remember: don't play dead. That's fine with grizzly bears, which we don't have in Arizona, but black bears eat carrion.”

An organization called BearWise offers advice on how humans and bears can coexist peacefully.

Hart says don’t leave garbage out—or anything animals might want to eat. He says once monsoon breaks the drought, animals will usually go back up the mountains.

He says if you are concerned about a wild animal call Arizona Game and Fish at 623-236-7201 or call 911, which will connect you with Game and Fish.

RELATED: AZGFD: Bear sighting near Fort Lowell Park, not yet located

Craig Smith is a reporter for KGUN 9. With more than 30 years of reporting in cities like Tampa, Houston and Austin, Craig has covered more than 40 Space Shuttle launches and covered historic hurricanes like Katrina, Ivan, Andrew and Hugo. Share your story ideas and important issues with Craig by emailing or by connecting on Facebook and Twitter.