Bear encounters in Black Diamond prompt calls for state intervention

Some residents in the Black Diamond neighborhood in King County say they're concerned about an increasing number of interactions with bears as more and more people move to the area. 

Pam Roach showed FOX 13 News surveillance video of bears raiding trash cans on her property in Black Diamond. She has lived in the area for 40 years and wants the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife to do something about the rising encounters.

"Bears are going to be bears," she said. "We’ve noticed an increase of bear presence, whether it’s raiding a beehive or getting into berries or trash cans that we didn’t experience before." 

Roach and longtime neighbor Jean Beers believe new housing developments are forcing the animals into new locations. 

"Just last year or so, a bear came right behind our house, maybe 10 feet," said Beers. 

"When you take down all the trees and everything, that is displacing many, many animals," said Roach.

She also feels the bears could feel boxed in by busy roads, and is calling for them to be relocated.

"The bears need to be taken from populated areas and relocated to the many, many acres of forest land that we have here in Washington state," said Roach. 

"I always thought they took them somewhere and put them out in the wilderness," said Beers.

Fish & Wildlife Sgt. Kim Chandler said his agency used to think that was the answer, but it is not. Officials once estimated bear relocation was 80-85% successful, meaning the bears didn't return or re-offend, said Chandler. However, he said newer research shows the success rate is only around 30%.

"We used to do that all the time, but the science behind it just doesn’t hold up. It's not fair to that bear. It's not fair to the bear whose living room you just dumped him into," said Chandler. "The only reason we would try to trap a bear if there is a substantial public safety issue, and that’s not going to be a relocation thing. We are capturing and killing that bear right now." 

As for the idea that bears could be caught between busy roads, potentially preventing them from leaving, Chandler said, "I don’t go for that." He went on to say that food sources keep bears in place.

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"Everybody has to be on the same page, has to get the bear resistant cans, has to put the garbage in the garage, has to take the bird feeders down," said Chandler. "Again, the number one issue that we have is the food source, bird feeders, garbage cans, BBQ grills, and to even a lesser extent, beehives. There have been some issues, there are every year with depredation on chicken coops." 

"The only reason these bears are around these more urbanized areas is because it’s an easy food source period. Plain and simple," said Chandler. That bear does not want to be there, other than it’s an easy food source for them."

As far as scaring the bears off of your property, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife said some bears have gotten used to people shouting at them or clapping their hands in order to frighten them. If that's the case, Chandler suggests getting an air horn to scare a problem bear away from your lawn or deck. He even suggests that people can also use a paintball gun to scare the bear off the property.

"Take action and make them know that, ‘You are not welcome there,’" Chandler said. 

"There is no reason at all they can’t relocate a bear," said Roach.

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Roach still feels wildlife officials should do more to manage the bears. 

"You can be on the East Side near Issaquah, they collar bears to follow them. If you are in southeast King County, we are being treated differently. You can call on the phone, they don’t come out, all they say is ‘Cover your trash cans,’" she said.