Downed power line kills black bear

A black bear was killed Friday morning, apparently electrocuted by a live power line dangling next to Kelly Road in Whatcom County.

Rolf Valum, 77, found the dead bear on its stomach, facing the road, the end of a power line directly over its head.

The bear’s nose was raw, as if the skin had been burned off. It had no other visible injuries. A singed tree branch lay nearby.

“It’s just very uncommon and unfortunate,” said Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife enforcement officer Ryan Valentine, after hefting the 200-pound bear into the back of a pickup with the help of officer Dave Jones. “This is the first time I’ve seen this.”

Valum, who lives down the road, had been patrolling the area off Mount Baker Highway near Smith Road since Wednesday’s storms to keep an eye on downed power lines. He didn’t see the bear until his second trip down the road that morning.

Valum said he had been calling Puget Sound Energy, asking for a crew to come out, at least to cut lines shorter, so they wouldn’t be a danger to people.

“That could have been a kid,” he said, pointing to where he found the bear.

Neighbors are accustomed to seeing bears in the area — or at least signs of them.

Jacqueline Zervas, 75, said she was saddened by the bear’s death. She and her husband live on the property adjacent to where the bear was found.

Bears are frequent visitors, eating fruit from the trees and walking through the forest, she said.

Friday afternoon, fallen trees blocked their driveway, and loops and frayed ends of power lines dangled dangerously all along the road.

Afraid she might walk into a wire, Zervas said she had started taking a different path through the woods to the road, near where the bear was killed.

“Maybe he saved our lives,” she said.