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
"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
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
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.