ISSAQUAH, Wash. - Wildlife officials are asking the public in Issaquah's Squak Mountain and Cougar Mountain neighborhoods to be on the lookout for a large black bear that has well outgrown his research collar.
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife says despite the fact that the bear loves trash and is unnaturally large, he's eluded capture for about two years.
A man who says he started capturing images of the bear on his trail camera two years ago feels the collar has now gotten so tight that the animal is suffering.
"He needs to be trapped," said Dave Wilkinson, a High Valley Resident. "I think over the time that I’ve taken videos, he’s gotten scruffier looking."
Wilkinson says when he first caught the bear on camera in September of 2020, the collar wasn't as tight. But since then, it's gotten worse.
"The following year, in August, I got a daytime video of the bear where I could see in a profile how tight the collar was," said Dave. "I could see vegetation behind it and I realized it had to be choking the bear. That’s when I first engaged the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife."
Dave said he spotted the bear again on camera in early April and reached out to WDFW again.
"They’ve started a real concentrated effort to get the bear and it hasn’t been successful," said Dave.
Officials with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife say the bear was initially captured in 2018 near Tiger Mountain as part of a research project. Later in 2019, officials say residents reported that the bear was feasting on garbage, bird feeders and fruit trees, getting 2-3 times as large as a bear of similar age.
Officials say the bear's collar stopped working in 2020 and "should have already fallen off."
In early April, officials caught a different, un-collared bear and relocated it to the Snoqualmie Pass area. Officials recently set up four culvert traps in the Squak Mountain area. That's where wildlife writer Laura Foreman lives. She hasn't seen the collared black bear, but says bears near Squak Mountain are common.
"Over the course of the years we’ve probably seen 25 to 30 bears," said Laura Foreman, Squak Mountain resident. She says she doesn't typically walk alone the night before trash day because the bears have gotten so used to the trash schedule. She says they like to get into the bags before they are picked up the next morning.
"There are a lot of us in the neighborhood urging people not to put their trash out until trash morning," said Laura.
"If you bring them out the night before, bears can be attracted out from their natural habitat," said Claire Hansen, another Squak Mountain resident.
The two neighbors say bird feeders are also not a great idea.
"A fed bear is a dead bear, so we really want people to be respectful of that," said Claire.
"That’s the biggest problem, are the people," added Laura.
Dave is hoping neighbors keep an eye out for the collared bear so the animal can find some relief.
"Watch your ring cameras, your trail cams, any security cams and let them know so they can move the traps or come up with alternate ways to capture the bear," said Dave.
WDFW wildlife officials say, "Trapping this specific bear has been very difficult as it has been highly mobile—moving between various suburban areas, backyards and private properties, including getting into improperly stored garbage."
Officials say anyone who spots a black bear with a collar in the Squak Mountain or Cougar Mountain areas near Issaquah is encouraged to immediately report it to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife at 360-902-2936 or to email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
People can also use the online form to report sightings. WDFW says the info will help in the attempts to trap the bear and assess "next steps".