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WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE     Print Version
NEWS RELEASE
600 Capitol Way North, Olympia, WA 98501-1091


June 05, 1997
Contact: Tim Waters, (425) 775-1311, ext. 119

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Wildlife officers caution citizens not to tamper with traps set to capture black bears or other wild animals

BELLEVUE -- State wildlife officers today cautioned people not to tamper with traps that have been set to capture black bears or other wild animals.

In recent days, officers have attempted to catch and relocate a black bear that has been observed roaming through backyards and greenbelt areas in a Bellevue neighborhood.

However, efforts to capture the animal have been hampered because the trap has been sprung on several occasions by unknown persons. On at least one occasion, the animal was believed to have been captured, only to be turned loose by someone.

"It's always a potentially dangerous situation when we're attempting to capture a black bear or any other wild animal," said Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Capt. Lyle Nelson.

"People should be mindful not only of their own safety when they are in areas where these traps have been set, but of the animal's safety and well-being," Nelson added.

"If officers are prevented from trapping and relocating an animal that is posing a threat to public safety, we increase the odds that animal could eventually get itself into a situation where it could get injured."

In recent years, wildlife officers have been forced to devote an increasing amount of time capturing and relocating black bears. Sightings of bears have become more common as the animals' habitat has been destroyed or altered for new developments and other land uses.

In 1996, there were more than 556 black bear complaints in Washington state. Of these complaints, 70 resulted in the bear having to be captured and relocated by wildlife officers. The state's black bear population presently is estimated at about 30,000 animals.

Although not normally aggressive, a black bear's strength, size and speed makes it potentially very dangerous. While bear attacks on people are rare, a person was killed by a bear in Washington in 1974.

If a person encounters a black bear, he or she should not approach the animal or run, but move slowly away, avoiding direct eye contact. Bears perceive eye contact as a threat, and could charge.

A person who cannot safely move away should attempt to scare the animal away by clapping their hands, yelling or screaming, or throwing rocks. In the remote possibility that the bear attacks and the person cannot escape, the person should fight back. If the animal is not deterred, and the attack continues, the person should play dead.