This week for wildlife sightings in the Northshore area. Not only are there beavers building homes in Kenmore’s Swamp Creek and deer flitting across streets near Simonds Road – but a local resident saw a black bear at Big Finn Hill Park.
The bear sighting was around 12:45 p.m. near the lacrosse and baseball fields at Big Finn Park in Kirkland near the Kenmore boundary, while a Kirkland resident Ted Vosk was walking his dog in the woods. The man quickly and quietly left the area without incident and reported it to the groundskeeper at Big Finn Hill.
According to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, black bears are the most common bear in North America and the most common bear in Washington, with more than 25,000 in the state.
Most confrontations with black bears are surprise encounters at a close range, such as a recent sighting at Big Finn Hill, and there are certain things people should do in the case of such an instance.
As omnivores, black bears eat both plants and animals, with their spring diet consisting of grasses and flowering plants, along with bees, ants, grubs and other types of bugs and plants.
Black bears breed in June and July, with cubs born in January or February who remain with the mother for as long as one year and through their second winter.
According to WDFW, people near black bears should stay calm and avoid eye contact. Eye contact can signify a challenge and bring a bear to charge. Experts say that people should try to scare the bear away, either by clapping, shouting, along with waving hands above one’s head, and try to move away slowly.
No matter what, do not approach the bear. Mother bears with cubs are extremely aggressive. Give all bears plenty of room.
If a bear does attack, the WDFW says that people should fight back aggressively to scare off the bear or, if the attack continues, curl into a ball or lie on the ground and play dead.
If conflict is unavoidable, bear spray is a good weapon to have available. The same compound that goes into human pepper spray, called capsaicin, is used in bear spray, only to a much greater degree, and is effective at stopping all bears except polar bears.
However, care should be taken when using bear spray; don’t spray into the wind (or else you’ll get pepper sprayed, but worse) and should be sprayed at bears charging from between 30 and 60 feet away, for a duration of six seconds. Continue to spray towards the bear to encourage it to leave.
However, some of the best prevention is always to remain alert and stay ‘noisy’ in areas you think may have bear populations.
Since one of the most common reasons why bears and humans intersect is a result of humans being associated with food, its imperative to ensure that people do not feed bears or leave garbage bear-accessible.
No matter what happens, please remember not to run from a bear and not to feed the bears.
If a bear is sighted, please call the Department of Fish and Wildlife at (425) 755-1311 (or a law enforcement agency if WDFW is closed) or dial 911 if the incident is an emergency.
Living in Washington State has the possibility of human to bear contact, however, through vigilance and knowledge we can help ensure encounters end safely for all.