As Whatcom County bear sightings increase, here’s why bears can’t always be trapped

A spate of recently reported bear sightings near Lake Whatcom are likely of the same bear, a state wildlife official said. So a trap goes out, the bear gets caught and taken somewhere else, right?

It’s not that simple, said Dave Jones, with the state Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Jones said he received about half a dozen reports of bear seen east of Lake Whatcom in the span of about two days. A bear was filmed near a chicken coop in the Silver Beach neighborhood last week. The calls are likely about the same bear, Jones said.

“Somebody said he spent half a day in a tree up behind their house,” he added.

Anneke Palmerton filmed what is perhaps the most recent bear sighting on Monday evening. The bear was responsible for tearing apart a chicken coop and knocking over bird feeders over the weekend at her home on East 36th Terrace, she added.

“He was cute, but he was kind of scary, more just because it was still daylight and he’s been getting more bold coming around here,” Palmerton said Tuesday, adding she had not reported the sighting to Fish and Wildlife.

Jones is ready to set a trap and relocate the bear, he said, but he can only do that if he knows the bear is revisiting the same location. And reports that come a day late are often of little use since the bear has probably moved on.

“People think I can set up a trap and boom, you got it,” he said. “When they move around, you can’t really do that.”

Even when a bear is trapped, relocating it could mean dropping it in another bear’s territory. Young bears that come snooping around homes, Jones said, are likely venturing off from their mothers and finding their own place to live. During that search, they may stumble upon areas where people live.

“I try to walk the razor’s edge and say at what point is this bear becoming such a problem that I have to move them,” Jones said.

Residents can take extra steps to avoid attracting bears by putting away bird feeders, he said.

Callers can report sightings to the department’s regional office in Mill Creek at 425-775-1311. If a bear sighting is an emergency, call 911, Jones said.

Kyle Mittan: 360-756-2803, @KyleMittan

Related stories from Bellingham Herald