Bears spotted in Lynnwood: Know your rights as a homeowner if threatened

KENMORE, Wash. – There’s a little slice of rural paradise near the heart of Kenmore’s downtown. Aaron Brown and his wife live there with their four goats. Unfortunately, Brown’s domesticated animals are attracting wild animals.

“I have seen evidence of the coyote spending time in here, two lots over I have seen what I think is evidence of the bear,” said Brown.

On Tuesday, there were multiple sightings in Lynnwood of a mama bear and a cub -- but authorities were unable to catch them, so warned residents to be aware there were bears in residential areas.

In the recent weeks, Brown said the evidence has turned to sightings in Kenmore and it has him alarmed.

“From up in the yard, I was able to look down and see the coyote looking back up the fence line, at where my goats were in this area right here,” he said. “That caused me concern the first day, and when I saw it the second day I realized I needed to start making phone calls.”

Brown wanted to know what his rights were to protect his livestock from wild animals because he lived in Kenmore city limits. A Starbucks and Dollar Tree are within walking distance to his home; patrons would hear a gunshot.

Brown called Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and King County Sheriff’s Office. Brown said they told him he has the right to safely defend his animals and if he ever needs to use a gun, to give King County dispatch a call. “I was surprised because we are liberal, and being given permission to protect my animals as long as we were being safe was not what I expected to hear,” he said.

Q13 News called the Department of Fish and Wildlife and King and Pierce County Sheriff’s Department as well to confirm.

DFW spokesman Craig Bartlett said homeowners are allowed to defend themselves and their property from wildlife. If there is a threat, they are allowed to take lethal action if done in a safe manner that does not put the public at risk.

If someone does kill an animal, they are asked to call their local county sheriff’s office to inform them. If homeowners are facing a chronic wildlife nuisance issue, they are urged to work with their local fish and wildlife office to address the problem.

Bear and coyote sightings are becoming more frequent in the recent weeks. Bartlett said he has received at least one call a day about a bear in residential areas. It’s the time of year that’s driving bears to seek out food and water. With cubs now walking, bear sightings will become more frequent as they are more freely able to move, said Bartlett.

PAWS Wildlife Director Emily Meredith is hoping homeowners won’t resort to lethal force unless absolutely necessary.

“Shooting this coyote, if you see this coyote in your yard, isn’t going to do anything if there’s attractants for other coyotes to come,” said Meredith.

She’s hoping the recent sightings will spur people to coexist with animals and avoid lethal measures. Meredith suggests people start by bear-proofing their homes.

“Try to figure out why they are coming to the yard. It’s usually a food source. So, if there are fallen fruits that need to be picked up or if there’s berries in the yard, you might want to pick them so they are not out there for them,” she said.

Garbage is another bear concern. She suggests keeping all bins and trash in homes until the morning of pick-ups. Do not leave bins outside overnight. Also check your property for any dog food left out or watering dishes that could attract a host of wildlife.

“Making sure you’re not attracting them to your yard is the most important thing,” she said.

If confronted by a coyote, Meredith suggests hazing the animal. “Make a lot of loud noises, bang things around, make yourself really big and just really yell at the coyote to leave when you see them,” she said.

She said most animal interactions are due to curiosity, and can be scared away without incident.

“They are trying to make a living as well, so they are looking for food and they are moving around through the habitat that is available to them to try and find those food sources.”