With the arrival of spring weather, Washington state wildlife officers warn that bears are waking up, and they're hungry. (AP Photo/file)

Wildlife agents: spring brings hungry bears

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) - With the arrival of spring weather, Washington state wildlife officers warn that bears are waking up _ and they're hungry.

State Fish and Wildlife Department bear and cougar specialist Rich Beausoleil (Bow-so-LAY) says field staffers have already received reports of black bear activity in North Bend, Issaquah and Chelan County.

Since black bears can lose as much as half their body weight during hibernation, and natural foods are scarce now, he says the animals are specially motivated to find easy sources of high-protein food.

To avoid attracting bears to homes, Beausoleil recommends securing garbage cans, removing backyard bird seed and not leaving pet food outdoors.

Last year, state wildlife officials responded to 444 situations involving bears, ranging from raids on garbage cans and birdfeeders to confrontations with pets.

Two new state laws went into effect last summer that prohibit leaving food or food waste in places where it can attract bears and other wild carnivores.

(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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