Officers with the state Department of Fish and Wildlife killed a juvenile male black bear Saturday in La Center. They tried to scare it off, but the bear appeared to be acclimated to humans and unwilling to leave the area.
La Center Police Chief Marc Denney said the bear was hanging out around town, and there were reports of it eating garbage at a gas station. Wildlife officers were called in to help because they’re better equipped to deal with unruly animals.
“It’s unusual for a bear to be up by the city. It’s disruptive and can lead to a worse situation,” he said.
Three officers with the Department of Fish and Wildlife traveled to La Center on Saturday after receiving the chief’s request. The officers wrote in a report that the bear did not appear to be afraid of humans, Southwest Washington Fish and Wildlife Capt. Jeff Wickersham said.
The officers tried to haze and herd the bear away from a neighborhood. They then attempted to sedate the bear, but it started heading toward a park in the southeast area of La Center, near Brezee Creek, Wickersham said. There were people gathered at the park for a party, he said.
That created a dangerous situation, so the officers decided to shoot and kill the bear.
The black bear was about 2 years old or younger, weighed 125 pounds and about 3 feet 8 inches long. Wickersham was unaware of any other complaints about the bear before Saturday. Black bears are the only kind of bears in this area of the state.
Wickersham said it is the preference of the Department of Fish and Wildlife to work with communities to remove food sources so bears don’t get used to easy meals, become aggressive toward people and have to be killed. But bears causing problems in town are rare occurrences, he said. Bears occasionally wander into more populated areas using greenbelts but don’t stick around.
A bear has not been removed from Clark County for at least three years, Wickersham said. There have been a couple instances of homeowners fatally shooting bears over the past two years, he said. One such shooting near Lucia Falls Regional Park involved a bear that broke into a shed the owner was using to store trash.
More than 90 percent of human-bear conflicts result from bears being conditioned to associate food with humans, according to the Department of Fish and Wildlife.
The bear in La Center likely found the spot convenient; younger bears tend to forage in areas with fewer bears, or less competition, Wickersham said.
Bears are currently foraging for the coming winter. They like to eat fruit off trees and berries, but they’re far from picky.
“They’ll eat anything, so it’s important to remove attractants,” Wickersham said.