Recent black bear sightings in rural Whatcom County are a reminder that bears roam throughout the region and have been active for several weeks, state wildlife officials said.
"Take the bird feeders down," said Dave Jones, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife's warden in Whatcom County. "Put the trash out in the morning rather than at night."
Jones said this year's encounters are reminiscent of "Barkley Bear," the young bruin who confounded wildlife officials and delighted Bellingham residents with his antics last summer as he peered into windows and raided backyard feeders across northeast neighborhoods.
"It's your classic 2-year-old male doing a walkabout," Jones said.
He said sightings along Kelly Road and other locations are likely a juvenile male who's been kicked out of its den by its mother because she's ready to mate.
"There's bears all over Stewart Mountain" east of Britton Road and north of Lake Whatcom, Jones said.
"They slide down to Barkley or north to Kelly (Road) or south to North Shore," he said. "They go anywhere there's humans and food."
He said people aren't generally in any danger from black bears, but it's unwise to approach one. Scare them away with loud noises, such as banging two pots together, he said.
"Anything to wake him out of his food-induced coma," Jones said. "Every bear has a personality just like you and I do," he said.
"Some are ornerier than others. But for the most part, it's just a huge stomach roaming through, looking for something to eat."
To report a bear sighting, call the state Department of Fish and Wildlife's North Puget Sound Region in Mill Creek at 425-775-1311.
Call 911 if the bear is menacing people or damaging property, he said.