Local

He was last summer’s Bellingham star, but you probably don’t want to see him hangry

He snacked on bird feeders last year, and it's time for him to be waking up

A bird food-loving bear nicknamed Barkley Bear grabbed a suet feeder for lunch in Jill Levenson's backyard in July 2017. Fish and Wildlife says taking feeders down now will keep people -- and bears waking up hungry -- safe.
Up Next
A bird food-loving bear nicknamed Barkley Bear grabbed a suet feeder for lunch in Jill Levenson's backyard in July 2017. Fish and Wildlife says taking feeders down now will keep people -- and bears waking up hungry -- safe.

It's spring, and bears are waking up from their winter slumber and leaving their dens for food.

Washington state has roughly 25,000 to 30,000 resident black bears.

What's the best way keep them out of your space and minimize conflict? Take down your bird feeder.

"It's my point one, two and three," said Dave Jones, a state Fish and Wildlife game warden in Whatcom County.

Birds don't need your help with food this time of the year any way, Jones said.

When bears first emerge, they're looking for their first meals.

Usually, that's skunk cabbage or grass on the side of a logging road, but bears that are young — we're looking at you Barkley Bear, old or injured will search for something quick and easy.

That's when your bird feeder full of seeds and high-fat suet will look like a buffet to a hungry bear.

"That protein, they love it. They're looking for a quick, easy food source," Jones said.

Other steps to take for safety in bear country, which is much of Whatcom County, include:

  • Keep your garbage indoors until just before your pick-up service arrives.
  • Did you just barbecue? Clean your grill when you're done, and do that each time you use it.
  • Keep pet food indoors. It's a good idea to keep your pets inside at night, too.
  • As for those bird feeders, including hummingbird feeders, put them away through November.

In Whatcom County, many calls to wildlife officials about bears come in from the areas around Squalicum and Stewart mountains, as well as the Maple Falls and Baker Lake areas.

More recently, a bear was seen on the edges of Bellingham last summer.

Bears are Back
Barkley Bear eats seed from a feeder last June at a home on Crestline Drive. The birdseed-loving bear developed a big following in 2017. It's spring and bears are starting to wake up, so the best thing for people to do is take down their bird feeders, a Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife official said. Alyson Batchelder-Bestle Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

A young juvenile bear, nicknamed Barkley Bear, was wildly popular last summer thanks to numerous sightings, but wildlife officials warn that over 90 percent of bear-human conflicts are caused by bears being conditioned to associate food with humans.

So keep food away from them.

And definitely don't feed them for a chance at pictures. Bears that become what's called food-conditioned likely will be killed — by someone protecting their property, or by a wildlife manager who has to remove a potentially dangerous bear, wildlife officials said.

Learn more

Additional information is online at:

Kie Relyea: 360-715-2234, @kierelyea
Related stories from Bellingham Herald

  Comments