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Dead grizzly bear washes ashore in Washington state

Grizzly bears aren't common in western Washington but have been known to swim from British Columbia to Vancouver Island.

WHATCOM COUNTY, Wash. — A dead grizzly bear that washed ashore in Whatcom County near Cherry Point was reported on June 17, according to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). 

The male grizzly bear had been dead for "some time," WDFW said. The carcass was in decay and there were no obvious signs as to the cause of death. 

"When I first heard about this it made me sad. I mean how can you not be sad about a baby bear cub, washed up on the beach and what story it tells," said Mitch Friedman, executive director of Conservation Northwest. 

WDFW thinks the bear was a year or two old. The department said in a statement it's possible the bear was washed down to Whatcom County in recent flooding. 

Grizzly bears haven't been spotted in Washington's Northern Cascade mountains since the 1990s. Friedman said the last credible sighting was in 1996. The bears are considered endangered in Washington and are considered to be a threatened species under the federal Endangered Species Act in the lower 48 states, according to WDFW. 

Grizzly bear populations are very small in Washington state due to habitat fragmentation, caused by human settlements and highways, WDFW said. The species is known to live in remote areas of the Selkirk Mountains and some other places near eastern Washington's northern border. 

However, grizzly bears are known to live in British Columbia's Coast Range, close to Vancouver and Squamish, and have been documented swimming from mainland Canada to Vancouver Island. 

Conservation Northwest has advocated for federal officials to sign-off on a restoration plan to bring grizzly bears back to Washington's North Cascades. 

"We've got a lot of protected habitat. We've got a lot of bear food. It's a safe, secure place where bears and recreation can co-exist," said Friedman. 

In July 2020, after years of discussion, the U.S. Department of Interior terminated a plan to compile an environmental impact statement, and discontinued the proposal that would reintroduce grizzly bears in Washington. Friedman is hoping the Biden Administration will reintroduce the proposal. 

Biologists took samples of the bear carcass for genetic analysis and the incident was reported to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. WDFW is working with Fish and Wildlife and Canadian partners to figure out where the grizzly bear may have come from. 

Friedman hopes the next time a grizzly is spotting in Washington it's seen alive. 

"What a good signal. This is the bear population, these are the bears saying, 'We want to come home. We belong in the North Cascades. Here's a message to y'all,'" said Friedman.  

Warning: Included below is a picture of the deceased grizzly bear washed up on a beach near Cherry Point

Credit: Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife
A dead grizzly bear washed up on shore near Cherry Point in Whatcom County on Friday, June 17.

   

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