Volunteers and an Idaho Fish and Game crew recently gathered in Ashton on a preventative mission to pick and gather apples across the town’s yards to prevent them from attracting bears.

“Fish and Game regularly responds to bears wandering into neighborhoods this time of year as they search for fruit trees and other easy meals to provide them with quick calories in preparation for winter,” Fish and Game said in a news release.

The good apples were gathered and delivered to the Ashton Senior Citizen Center and the other roughed up fruit was taken to animals at Grizzly Bear and Wolf Discovery Center in West Yellowstone, Mont., and the Idaho Falls Zoo.

“An apple tree can be quite the find for a hungry bear, but it comes at a price,” said bear biologist Jeremy Nicholson. “Bears that become accustomed to spending time near humans and eating human food are commonly removed from the population because of the danger they pose to the public.”

Fish and Game reported gathering several pickup truck loads for removal. This is the second year apples have been gathered on a large scale in areas with nearby bears “and so far it is working,” Fish and Game said. “Less conflicts are occurring in cleaned up areas and bears are mostly remaining in the forest away from humans.”

“I would like to thank all the volunteers that helped out and the homeowners who allowed us to collect apples on their property,” Nicholson said. “We were able to remove truck load after truck load and put them to a good use.”

Bears can be especially active during the fall as they eat constantly to store up reserves for winter. Fish and Game offers some tips for keeping bears away from human neighborhoods:

• Keep garbage in bear-resistant containers or in a closed building.

• Empty and remove bird feeders during the summer months when songbirds are able to forage on food provided by nature.

• Clean up fruit that has fallen in your yard. Rotting fruit will attract bears as well as raccoons and skunks.

• Feed pets inside or during daylight hours; don’t leave pet food or food scraps outside of your home or camp.

• Store horse and livestock grains inside closed barns.

• Keep barbecue grills stored in closed buildings.

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