A young black bear that’s been sighted several times recently in northeast Bellingham was again seen over the weekend and twice narrowly eluded capture.
Like his cartoon cousin Yogi, he’s proving smarter than the average Ursus americanus – black bear.
“He’s a real pain, a real slippery character,” said Dave Jones, state Fish and Wildlife game warden. “Typically, a bear will show up in an area and stay there for a food source. This guy, the continual movement is just maddening. He’s like a teenager.”
Jones said he’s trailing his quarry, but the bear has been a step ahead all week. Jones said he nearly had the bear in a trap on Thursday, and dogs treed the pesky little bruin Friday night. On Saturday, it was seen in backyards across the northern Alabama Hill and Silver Beach neighborhoods, and near Northridge Park.
Jones said he can’t just dart the bear like they do on TV shows, because it takes time for the tranquilizer to work, and the bear could hide or hurt someone. Instead, Jones sets baited traps in the bear’s path.
“I’ve got a hunch that he’s going to go back to Squalicum Mountain,” Jones said.
But for now, the bear is wandering through residential areas along Bellingham’s greenways and bike trails, where Bill Lowe and his wife Dorothy saw it gobbling birdseed from their feeders west of Big Rock Garden Park last weekend.
“He was in our backyard on Saturday. He had a good time,” Bill Lowe said. “He was sure a handsome guy, a good looking bear.”
He’s a real pain, a real slippery character.
Dave Jones, state Fish and Wildlife game warden
Lowe said he and his wife watched as the bear pulled down the bird feeders and ate all the seed.
Jones advises anyone who sees a bear not to approach it, but to call 911, where they’ll be transferred to a Washington State Patrol dispatcher who will alert Fish and Wildlife.
Bellingham Police took to social media on Saturday to warn residents.
“A bear has been sighted in the area of Barkley Blvd/Alabama Hill. @WDFW is aware of the situation. Please avoid any contact with the bear. This may be the same bear seen in the Toad Lake area earlier this month,” police tweeted at 11 a.m. Saturday, linking to one of The Bellingham Herald’s several recent stories about bear sightings.
If you see a bear, call 911 and a dispatcher will alert Fish and Wildlife. Don’t approach the bear.
The Lowes live near Barkley Tunnel and the Klipsun Trail. Jones said there was a reported sighting just north of there on Pinehurst Court near Northridge Park.
“We’ve got lots of deer and lots of squirrels, but the bear is a new one on us,” said Bill Lowe, a 20-year neighborhood resident.
The weekend sightings are among several reported in the past month and officials think it’s the same juvenile bear that has been roaming around the neighborhoods surrounding Lake Whatcom.
Last month, several people also reported a black bear on the Lummi Indian Reservation, and earlier this spring one was spotted near Blaine.
Jedidiah Forsyth co-founder of the Cascadia Naturalist Association, which is focused on ecological education, said bears are common in lowland Whatcom County. But it’s rare to see one.
“Outside of dense human habitat, there’s a good amount of bears,” Forsyth said in a story for the summer issue of The Herald’s magazine, Bellingham Families. “They’re pretty common, it’s not a surprise to see a bear outside of town. They’re very wary of humans, and they have a pretty decent understanding of human activity patterns and how not to be seen if they don’t want to see you.”
Chris Kazmer, Forsyth’s partner at the Cascadia Naturalist Association, said he thinks the bear is an adolescent who was recently booted from its mother as the sow prepares to mate. He thinks the young bear headed away from the mountains in search of food, and because males are territorial in mating season.
“It’s still spring,” Kazmer said. “The berries aren’t in full production yet. Bears are eating skunk cabbage (a favorite), birdseed and trash. I don’t think he looks skinny. Bears are generally lanky, especially when they are young.”