Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) officers are searching for a black bear reported to have attacked a female jogger northeast of Colville yesterday.
According to the Stevens County Sheriff’s Office, a 36-year-old woman was attacked by a black bear while she was jogging in the late morning on a trail between Thomas and Gillette lakes, 17 miles northeast of Colville on the Colville National Forest. She dropped to the ground into a protective fetal position and the bear batted at her and then left the area. Later in the day she was treated and released at Mount Carmel Hospital in Colville.
Today WDFW officials were notified of the incident by the Sheriff’s office. WDFW enforcement officers are working with U.S. Forest Service (USFS) staff to investigate the scene of the incident, place bear traps and possibly use dogs to find the bear. USFS campgrounds are maintained at Thomas and Gillette lakes.
WDFW Enforcement Capt. Chris Anderson said that because of the time that has elapsed since the attack, finding the bear may be difficult. If officers find the bear and determine that it was the animal involved in the attack, the bear will be euthanized, according to WDFW policy.
There have been five other bear attacks on humans and one reported fatality in Washington, according to historical records. Last September a man was seriously injured by a bear near Lake Wenatchee.
Washington’s black bear population is estimated at 25,000 to 30,000 animals. WDFW receives an average of about 417 black bear complaints annually, ranging from glimpses of bears to encounters. Black bears are classified as a game species and may be harvested during prescribed hunting seasons by licensed hunters who have purchased bear tags.
Typically, black bears avoid people but can pose a safety risk if they become habituated to human food sources. Bears become overly familiar with humans if they are fed or find unsecured garbage, bird seed, pet food, windfall fruit or compost piles.
WDFW officials offer the following advice to minimize the risk of injury if a bear is encountered in the wild:
- Don't run. Pick up small children, stand tall, wave your arms above your head and shout.
- Do not approach the animal and be sure to leave it an escape route. Try to get upwind of the bear so that it can identify you as a human and leave the area.
- Don’t look the bear directly in the eye, as the animal may interpret this as a sign of aggression.
- If the animal does attack, fight back aggressively.
Problem bear encounters may be reported to local WDFW regional offices, or WDFW’s dangerous wildlife reporting line, 1-877-933-9847. In an emergency, dial 911.