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Bear near Ferndale eludes traps, hasn’t been seen for days

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

A bear that had ransacked at least two backyard chicken coops and killed a goat northwest of Ferndale has stumped officials trying to trap and relocate it.

Dave Jones, a state Fish and Wildlife warden, said Wednesday, May 18, that he pulled the last of the three traps on Monday that he had set for the bear. Residents first reported seeing the bear on Sunday, May 8, after it tore through a chicken coop along Stein Road near Birch Bay-Lynden Road.

If I get another credible sighting, I will absolutely put the traps back out.

Dave Jones, WDFW warden

Since then, the bear has been spotted and photographed by area residents at least another 10 times, in one case after killing a goat at a home along Arnie Road. The goat kill had originally been reported as a sheep kill.

The bear is believed to be a young black bear weighing about 150 pounds, Jones said.

But reports of sightings have ebbed since Saturday, May 14, Jones said, leaving him with little information to keep tracking the bear. The traps Jones set up last week are now needed to catch other animals.

“If I get another credible sighting, I will absolutely put the traps back out,” Jones added.

Had the bear been trapped, Jones said earlier this month, it would have been marked with an ear tag and relocated. Predators that kill livestock are given the tags, and, if caught killing livestock again, are euthanized.

The entire episode has been atypical bear activity, Jones said. In most cases, bears will circle back around to a previous kill, which is why Jones placed one trap near where the goat was killed, he said, using the carcass for bait.

Bears are also known to stay in a particular area.

But this bear has been transient since the first sighting, Jones said, adding that he hoped the bear retreated to typical habitat. Sumas, Squalicum and Red mountains are known homes for bears.

Though the area is also prone to cougar sightings, Jones said he’s seen no indication that the attacks were from a large cat. Paw prints from the initial chicken coop attack, he said, pointed to a bear. The animal went through a fence to reach the goat it killed; a cougar likely would have jumped over the fence, he said.

Shaaron Coleman, a resident near Lake Terrell, posted to social media photos she took of a bear outside her home on Tuesday, May 10.

“All the evidence points toward a bear,” Jones said, adding that he can’t be certain unless he sees the animal. “And based on all the sightings and what I’ve seen, I’m convinced it’s all tied to the same bear.”

Until the bear makes another appearance, Jones said, it’ll be hard trap.

“I can’t guarantee what this bear is going to do,” he said.

Kyle Mittan: 360-756-2803, @KyleMittan

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