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‘Bad news’ Barkley bear may be heading home

Bellingham's elusive black bear may be leaving town

An adolescent black bear that’s been eluding wildlife officials for three weeks – and delighting local residents – appears to be headed back to his home territory in the woods of Squalicum and Stewart mountains around Lake Whatcom.
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An adolescent black bear that’s been eluding wildlife officials for three weeks – and delighting local residents – appears to be headed back to his home territory in the woods of Squalicum and Stewart mountains around Lake Whatcom.

An adolescent black bear that’s been eluding wildlife officials for three weeks – and delighting local residents – appears to be headed back to his home territory in the woods of Squalicum and Stewart mountains around Lake Whatcom.

“I don’t want to jinx myself, but I haven’t heard a peep from him since 6 o’clock last night,” said Fish and Wildlife game warden Dave Jones in a phone call early Wednesday. “He rolled right up to where he started from about 6 o’clock,” in the Toad Lake area.

As Jones talked, a 911 caller reported a sighting on Agate Heights Road about 9 a.m.

Game warden Dave Jones thinks “Barkley Bear” is an apropos nickname, because of the area the bear frequents.

“It’s a little lower than I’d like,” Jones said. “I like the fact that he’s going east, but I’d like him to go north, too. Yes, he’s giving me bad news.”

Jones said he has received some 50 reports of sightings since the bear began wandering the Roosevelt, Barkley, Alabama Hill and Silver Beach neighborhoods of Bellingham.

Jones suspects the bear was recently booted from its mother as the sow prepares to mate. He said the bear, which hasn’t reached sexual maturity, may be afraid of raising the ire of arduous male bears, called boars, in the woods around Lake Whatcom.

As the bear wandered Bellingham’s greenbelts and trails, he grew to love the seed from bird feeders, yanking them free and consuming their contents. Several residents said he peered in their windows.

He’s giving me bad news.

Dave Jones, Fish and Wildlife game warden

“He’s a bird-feeder fool,” Jones said, adding the smarter-than-the-average-bear twice investigated a trap but escaped, was treed Friday, and on Tuesday he bounded away before Jones could hit him with a bean-bag round from a shotgun.

Several local residents have shared photos and video of the bear’s three-week urban romp.

“The now famous black bear spent quite a lot of time in our back yard last Saturday, due to our oversight in leaving out a bird feeder – which he thoroughly enjoyed,” Douglas Bestle wrote in an email.

Stephanie Alexander sent photos taken from her parents’ home in near Northridge Park.

bear2
An adolescent black bear peers into the window of a home near Northridge Park on Monday. The bear tried to gobble seed from the window-mounted bird feeder. Stephanie Alexander Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

She said her parents have been calling him “Walter,” but Jones thinks “Barkley Bear” is more apropos, because of the area he frequents – the bear apparently followed the Barkley Boulevard corridor to the most recent sightings late Tuesday and early Wednesday.

Jones said this is the longest he’d ever tracked a single bear.

Once “Barkley Bear” returns to the wild, Jones said he’ll see somewhat of a summer lull in wildlife calls. The warmer months focus on concerns about cougars and about injured deer, elk and raptors.

“I need at least a week of silence from this guy” to be convinced that Barkley has returned to the wild, Jones said.

Robert Mittendorf: 360-756-2805, @BhamMitty

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