Just as Payette Lake attracts people to McCall each summer, the lake also funnels bears into the town in search of food, Idaho Department of Fish & Game regional wildlife manager Jeff Rohlman said.
The F&G's McCall office has received more than 60 bear complaints this summer from residents who have either spotted bears in their yard or had to clean up the mess left behind by bears rummaging for food.
"McCall is bear habitat," Rohlman said. "What we do will make a difference in if they stay."
Bears can be tempted by as little as slime in the bottom of a garbage can, F&G district conservation officer Larry Jindrich said.
"If they get a food reward, they are going to stick around," Jindrich said. "Quantity is the consideration."
Jindrich said large open dumpsters at the Camp Morrrison Boy Scout camp and Camp Alice Pittenger Girl Scout camps near Payette Lake have led to bear problems.
He also cautioned that what some people believe to be a mess left by bears has on occasion turned out to be dogs roaming free and getting into trash.
There could be up to one black bear per square mile in the region and a few of them are finding trash cans, open dumpsters, pet food, bird seed, barbecue grills and compost piles too tempting to resist in McCall.
"Open dumpsters are pretty prevalent in town," Rohlman said.
Residents can do several things to improve a bear exodus from the town and back into the forest, Rohlman said. Residents and business owners can keep their trash can in a locked garage or storage shed. Residents can also purchase bear-proof garbage containers that are made of indestructible plastic and use a latch so the lids cannot be pulled off.
In the meantime, F&G is working with Lakeshore Disposal to see if bear-proof garbage containers can be introduced into McCall citywide.
Bear complaints usually start in May and then pick up during the summer months as bears attempt to fatten up for winter hibernation.
Adult black bear males in the area can weigh about 300 pounds, and adult females can weigh about 180 pounds. So far, no injuries from bear confrontations in the McCall area have been reported, Rohlman said.
"Injury is the risk we run," he said.
A person should look as large as they can if they confront a bear. People should not run from
a bear, because then the bear will think the person is prey. Rohlman suggests yelling at the bear and walking away.
"If it still won't leave and you are alone, throw things at it," he said.