Chalk one up for the bears - at least for the time being.
Arizona wildlife officials in September authorized a "population management hunt" to kill bears that were foraging for food in the Sierra Vista area and posing a threat to people.
But the bears managed to evade five archery hunters who were authorized to kill one bear each - and the hunt is now in limbo as bears enter semihibernation.
"No bears have been taken by the hunters," said Mark Hart, spokesman for the Arizona Game and Fish Department. "The hunt is no longer active. We assume most bears are bedded down" for the winter.
Hart said he couldn't speculate as to why the hunters were unsuccessful.
REASONS FOR THE HUNT
The Game and Fish Department authorized the hunt after numerous close encounters between bears and people in Sierra Vista and near homes in the nearby Huachuca Mountains. In one 72-hour period, residents reported 12 bear sightings in the area.
Wildlife officers suspect the bears were foraging in populated areas because much of their natural habitat in the mountains was diminished by last year's Monument Fire and recent dry winters.
Hart said relocation of problem bears wasn't seen as a good option because relocated bears sometimes travel long distances to return to their home territory. In other cases, relocated bears have potentially fatal conflicts with bears already occupying the territory.
A LINGERING PROBLEM
The onset of bears' semi-hibernation season has curtailed the foraging problem for now - but it could be an issue again next year.
"There's a lull for the time being," Hart said. "We have not been seeing the bear activity we saw from mid-July to mid-October.
"But to be perfectly direct, we may find ourselves in a similar situation in the spring," Hart said. "Bears that have bedded down for the winter will be hungry when they emerge from their dens. And some of them clearly have been habituated to foraging in residential areas."
Hart said it's possible that some of the problem bears already are dead - including two that were hit by cars and another that was killed after trying to get into residences.
Contact reporter Doug Kreutz at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 573-4192. On Twitter: @DouglasKreutz