Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) officers are setting several traps in the Blaine area for one mother black bear and two cubs reportedly digging in people’s garbage. The bears will then be assessed as to whether they can be relocated or need to be euthanized.
The three black bears were first reported to WDFW in the Maple Falls area on August 23, WDFW communications specialist Becky Elder said. WDFW received a call several days later that the bears were located 20 miles away.
The bears appear to have traveled to Ferndale, Custer and now Blaine, where they have most recently been sighted, Elder said. WDFW has received 20 to 30 reports as they have moved westward.
Human garbage is the key indicator for the bears’ movement, Elder said.
“They’re opportunistic and are taking the opportunity to get into wherever they can receive a free meal,” she said.
Custer resident Peter Svedin said he’s lived near Valley View and Behme roads his entire life and seeing scat was the closest thing he’s come to ever seeing a bear on his property until he saw the mother black bear and cubs while he was working on equipment over the weekend.
Blaine resident Vickie Jones Young said her family watched from their upstairs window as the bears ate garbage in their backyard, near Red Cedar Road, about 7:30 p.m. September 2.
Elder said it’s not uncommon to see black bears in the Blaine and Custer area, especially if food is available, but it’s also not a place where WDFW frequently observes bears.
As of August 5, WDFW had set up one trap and were transporting a few more to deploy, though Elder declined to give the trap locations. Once trapped, WDFW officers will assess the health, age and whether they have been picked up before.
Bears are difficult to relocate once they’ve become habituated to humans, Elder said.
“It’s our last option,” she said of removal. “We would love to not have any bears where we need to trap and assess but unfortunately that will probably be the next step.”
Elder said the most important thing people can do is remove food and other attractants, which black bears can smell from over a mile away.
WDFW recommends the following to avoid black bear-human interaction:
People who see bears should clap their hands loudly and shoo it away. Call 911 to report emergency predatory wildlife incidents. For non-emergency predatory wildlife incidents, call 877/933-9847, submit a report at wdfw.wa.gov/about/enforcement/report or text tip to 847411 (TIP411).
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