'Aggressive' bears worry Washougal neighbors

Credit: Barb Taylor for KGW

A bear is caught on a wildlife surveillance camera in Washougal, Wash.

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by Mark Hanrahan, KGW Staff

kgw.com

Posted on June 25, 2014 at 11:18 AM

Updated Wednesday, Jun 25 at 8:44 PM

WASHOUGAL, Wash. -- Three black bears have been causing a bit of chaos in a Washougal neighborhood because nothing seems to scare them away.

"We’ve actually gotten quite a few complaints, not just here, but around this whole area, a pretty good sized radius,” said officer David Hughes with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

One Washougal woman was so frustrated with the bears constantly nosing around her house, she installed a security camera to catch them in the act.  Barb Taylor said the bears first started showing up at her home on Southeast Hidden Falls Road in May and now return regularly.

She bought a motion-activated game camera, which has captured several pictures of the bears on her property trying to get into her Dumpster, which she has secured with a padlock.

Photos: Washougal bears caught on cam

Taylor said the bears have also gotten into a neighbor's shed and destroyed a box beehive.

Another neighbor, who emailed KGW, complained that the bears were “not intimidated by noisemakers or gun shots.”  They also said neighbors have taken the necessary steps of locking up food sources and using bear deterrents, to no avail.

According to wildlife officials, its not uncommon for bears to wander into town from the wilderness this time of year, in search of food.

"If you move the attractant, get rid of the garbage or whatever’s bringing the bear in, than 99.9 percent of the time, that resolves the situation,” Hughes said.

But neighbors said they've contained their garbage and it doesn't make a difference. These bears are more than a nuisance and have become aggressive.

"If you walk out here towards dusk, you carry a gun because you don’t know," Taylor said. "I don't want to shoot (one of the bears). I don't want it dead."

She and other neighbors just want to see the bears removed from the area.

"We removed two bears out of this same area last year and more bears just moved right back in," Hughes said. "So you can’t always just move the bear to solve the problem.”

Earlier this month, wildlife officials did capture and relocate a black bear that had roamed into a Northeast Portland neighborhood.

In that case, the bear broke through some neighborhood fences before climbing a tree.  It was eventually tranquilized, tagged, caged and then released into the Western Cascades.

More: Bear captured in Northeast Portland

Wildlife officials said trapping and removing bears should only be a last resort. They added that when a wild bear is caged and moved, it puts a great deal of stress on the animal, and some die.

 "Our first response to these complaints is to get rid of attractants," Hughes said. "You know, put away your bird seed, put away your bird feeders, put away your garbage, use bleach to clean stuff.”

Living with Wildlife: Black Bears

Back in June of 2011, the Tualatin community had some fun with a bear incident in their area. A black bear wandered onto a school yard from the mountains and played cat-and-mouse with wildlife officials for hours before it was captured.

Captivated students got to safely watch the whole thing unfold right outside their classroom windows. Then, after the bear escapade was over, the Tualatin Elementary School officially changed its mascot from the panthers to the black bears.

More: Tualatin school mascot renamed for visiting bear

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