Bear attacks sheep, chickens northwest of Ferndale

Herald reader Shaaron Coleman photographed this juvenile black bear in her yard near Lake Terrell on Tuesday, May 10, 2016.
Herald reader Shaaron Coleman photographed this juvenile black bear in her yard near Lake Terrell on Tuesday, May 10, 2016. Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

A bear has been rummaging through backyard chicken coops and killed a sheep northwest of Ferndale.

The bear, believed to be a young black bear weighing about 150 pounds, has been sighted several times starting Sunday, May 8. That’s when the bear ransacked a chicken coop and made away with a few eggs along Stein Road near Birch Bay-Lynden Road.

Since the initial call, the bear’s been busy, spending time around Bay and Thornton roads in northwest Ferndale and has racked up seven more sighting reports, said Dave Jones, a warden with the state Department of Fish & Wildlife. The second call came after the bear killed a sheep at a home along Arnie Road. The third, Jones said, came after the bear went through another chicken coop, killing several chickens.

The latest sighting was reported at about 5 p.m. Tuesday, May 10, near the intersection of Mountain View and North Star roads.

Now Jones is trying to locate and trap the bear, setting up one trap where the bear killed the sheep, and another about a mile west of Interstate 5 on Bay Road.

“This guy’s a little different than the others I’ve had to deal with,” Jones said. Killing sheep, he added, is out of the ordinary for bears, which usually look for smaller prey like chickens or the feed used in bird feeders.

Other aspects of the bear’s behavior also have raised eyebrows, Jones said, adding that a bear this young usually isn’t found foraging near humans. The bear’s mother, Jones said, may have died.

Though black bears are found throughout the Sumas and Squalicum mountains, Jones said he’s “perplexed” that one would come to the outskirts of Ferndale, adding that he has no idea where in the area the bear would hide when it’s not searching for food.

Don’t panic, don’t sweat it — we live with bears. Just be smart about it.

Dave Jones, WDFW warden

Once a bear is trapped, officials usually relocate it if it’s healthy, releasing it in an area farther from homes. Sometimes they even shoot it with non-lethal rounds from a shotgun to discourage it from getting near humans. Bears that have killed livestock are marked with an ear tag, and, if found killing livestock again, are euthanized.

“With a bear like this, when they start getting into people’s livestock, they’re getting marked for death,” Jones said. “You’ve got to weigh the risk of public safety.”

Still, Jones added that he rarely sees a problem bear return once it’s been relocated.

Residents who see a bear ransacking a chicken coop or trash have a few options, Jones said. If they feel inclined to go outside and scare the bear away, he suggested making noise from a safe location using pots and pans.

Anyone who sees the bear is also encouraged to call the Department of Fish & Wildlife’s Mill Creek office at 425-775-1331, Jones said.

Once the bear is gone, residents should be sure to dispose of, hide or secure whatever the bear was after.

“Don’t panic, don’t sweat it — we live with bears,” Jones added. “Just be smart about it.”

Kyle Mittan: 360-756-2803, @KyleMittan