There has been a recent flurry of black bear sightings in the Auburn, Kent and Bonney Lake region. While these sightings seem new for this area, Rich Beausoleil, bear and cougar specialist for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) explained that this is normal.
Beausoleil explained that the forested tracts of land between Kent, Auburn, Bonney Lake and surrounding areas allow for easy travel for bears and other wildlife. It is also important to note, right off the bat, that the bears sighted are Black Bears. Grizzly Bears would not naturally be in this region.
Not only is this activity normal, but the numerous sightings are also likely to be only one bear. WDFW began collaring bears for identification purposes several years ago. Though it has not yet been confirmed this is the same bear, Beausoleil shared that one summer WDFW received over 200 reports in the same region that was all the same bear. “We had one bear from North Bend who went down to Bonney Lake one day,” shared Beausoleil.
Don’t Be a Bear Drive-Thru
The reason for the increase in sightings can be likely explained by the animal seeking food. Beausoleil said bears are naturally wary of humans but can overcome this fear when people provide them with food – intentionally or unintentionally.
“The trick,” Beausoleil explained, “is to not make a human source of food easier for a bear to get than what nature provides – especially food that is high in fat and calories. If you compare a handful of blueberries, at 400 calories, to a pound of birdseed at about 2,000 calories – that’s like us choosing to go to the drive-thru.”
WDFW recommends the following to help prevent attracting black bears to their homes.
- Never intentionally feed bears or other wild animals.
- Always keep garbage cans in a garage or sturdy building until collection day.
- Take down seed and hummingbird feeders until winter.
- Remove pet food from wildlife accessible areas, and feed pets inside.
- Thoroughly clean barbecue grills after each use and store them in a secure building.
- Clean up fallen fruit or other possible attractants around your home.
- Cage and electric fence your domestic fowl and livestock pens.
When camping, thoroughly clean:
- all spilled food;
- yourself and your children after eating (hands, face, and clothing);
- all cooking utensils; and
- seal uneaten food in airtight containers that are stored in bear-proof canisters or food lockers at
- least 100 yards away from camping areas.
- Avoid storing food in your car. When necessary, ensure that you cover these items or leave them out of sight in your vehicle or securely locked in the trunk
“When bears have learned to associate food sources with people, situations often end badly for the bear,” said Beausoleil. Because of this, he urges residents to scare off black bears they encounter in their residential area (when safe).
- Banging pots and pans together
- Blowing a whistle
- Clapping loudly
- Yelling or otherwise making loud noises
Beausoleil said encounters with bears tend to subside by mid-summer, when berries and other natural foods become available. They can pick up again in fall before the bears enter their dens.
If you see a bear or are experiencing a conflict with a bear and it is not an emergency, contact the Mill Creek division of WDFW (425-775-1311 or [email protected]). Current officers on duty will assess the situation and address it accordingly. In an emergency, call 911.