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Playing through? Move over Barkley, Bellingham's got a new bear to love this summer

Look who’s sitting in her tree, having lunch and enjoying the backyard

A bear, believed to be the bird food-loving bear nicknamed Barkley Bear who raided Barkley neighborhood bird feeders earlier this summer, visits Jill Levenson's backyard just outside Bellingham Tuesday, July 18, 2017. She said this is the first ti
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A bear, believed to be the bird food-loving bear nicknamed Barkley Bear who raided Barkley neighborhood bird feeders earlier this summer, visits Jill Levenson's backyard just outside Bellingham Tuesday, July 18, 2017. She said this is the first ti

Maybe it's the impending smell of hot dogs and hamburgers on the grill, or perhaps he just wanted to arrive early to get a good seat for the fireworks. Or possibly, like many Americans, he just wanted to get in a round of golf before Fourth of July festivities begin.

Whatever the reason, an unexpected part of Bellingham got a surprise early holiday visitor Monday evening and early Tuesday morning, as a black bear decided to take a stroll through the Cornwall Park and Birchwood neighborhoods of Bellingham.

"I haven't actually verified anything with my own two eyes," said Dave Jones, Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife Whatcom game warden in Whatcom County, "but we got enough reports, I'm pretty sure somebody was taking a walkabout last night in that area."

Jones said he received a report at about 10 p.m. of a bear sighting at Bellingham Golf and Country Club — on the second hole to be exact.

So did the bear hit a hole-in-one?

"There's no doubt in my mind," Jones quipped. "He's got a 3-handicap."

Impressive, considering No. 2 measures 382 yards from the tips and is a par-4, but who's actually going to argue with a bear over his scorecard? Sounds like this bear has earned the name "Ace."

Keith Mccue got up at 5 a.m. on a recent morning to play golf and got to see two bears on one of the holes playing different sport - wrestling. The video was taken at Sierra Star Golf Course in Mammoth Lakes.

The Bellingham Police Department's log of incidents also included not one, but two additional bear sightings in the area over night.

The first was made at 11:08 p.m. from the 3100 block of Coolidge Drive and stated "There have been several sightings of a black bear in the area of Cornwall Park." Just over seven hours later, a second report came in at 6:11 a.m. of a bear sighting in the 3000 block of West Maplewood Avenue.

Like Jones, Bellingham Police reported officers have not actually gotten eyes on the bear, according to Lt. Claudia Murphy. But the reports Monday night and Tuesday morning were just the latest in a recent string of sightings in the area, Murphy said, including at the 3000 block of Victor Street, the 1300 block of Birchwood Avenue and the 3400 block of Guide Meridian the past couple of days.

Last summer, a 2-year-old male black bear gained nearly cult hero status with residents on the northeast edges of town, dazzling with his acrobatic ability to pull down bird feeders for a snack. Residents named him "Barkley," and he even decided to jump into the pool of one Northshore house and take a dip.

A black bear, believed to be the same adolescent bruin that raided bird feeders across northeast Bellingham, Washington neighborhoods for the better part of the past two months, went for a swim Wednesday, July 26 at the home of Christine Palmerton

That this year's bear is being seen so much farther into town is a bit of a surprise, Jones said.

"To see one that far west, so far south is different," Jones said. "We get some in Blaine that are that far west and the one out at Lummi that was really far west, and then there was the one that swam to Orcas Island. ... But to see one that far west this far south, it's the first time I've seen it in 17 years. I've never dealt with one in that neck of the woods — that far into town. It's pretty amazing he dodged a pretty major road system."

Like Barkley, Jones said he expects this summer's visitor is a 2-year-old boar.

"Wherever he was, there might have been a bigger, dominant bear that chased him off, so he's just on walkabout," Jones said. "He just kept his head down and followed his nose to wherever he could find food."

And eliminating his food source is the key to making him want to leave the center of town and return to his more natural habitat, said Jones, who advised not putting out trash the night before collection, removing bird feeders and not using compost for a couple of months.

"If you do see him, it's a 2-year-old boar, who's probably not going to get mean," Jones said. "It's not a sow with cubs. Just make yourself big and make noise so you don't surprise him. You can take your pictures, but you want to keep your distance and be big and loud so you don't sneak up on him."

But, hey, if the bear wants to come in to take a dip in the hot tub and sip some margaritas, like the one Friday in Altadena, Calif., by all means, crank up the blender.

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David Rasbach: 360-715-2286
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