Life here is good, but what if there are bears?

Published on Thu, Jul 17, 2008 by Jack Kintner

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Life here is good, but what if there are bears?

By Jack Kintner

A three to four-year-old mature male black bear was shot and killed last Saturday night by a state game warden just east of I-5 near the Loomis Trail overpass after wandering through a north Custer neighborhood and at least one occupied home.

The animal entered a house belonging to Robert Finkbonner and Becky Hathaway down West 88th Lane off Giles Road.

“I just got home from work about 6 p.m.,” Hathaway said, “and had opened the doors to air the place out. At first I thought it was our black Lab Martha, but then saw it was a bear. It walked in the front door and just sat there. It wasn’t aggressive. It batted at Martha kind of playfully and then walked out and sat on the kids’ trampoline.”

Ray Fenton, who believes that the bear came from his property, located near the Haynie Cemetery about a mile northeast, was angry about the shooting.

“I’m sure that bear is one of two cubs born a few years ago to a female I see around here all the time. She’s never bothered me or my livestock, and I don’t feed them. Why do people have to shoot animals like that? It should have been tranquilized and moved, not killed,” said Fenton, 73.

Fenton added that he and his wife Betty donated the 79.5 acre parcel to the Whatcom Land Trust in 2006 to preserve it for wildlife. “But with all these people and developments, where are the animals going to go?” he asked.

Hathaway said she was concerned more for her kids than herself. A licensed foster home, she and her husband currently have five children living with them, and there are more kids down the road.

Jones said that in two years as a conservation officer for the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) he’s had to relocate seven bears in the area. “But this one became a problem. We had four calls on it beginning Friday night (July 11) and had multiple sightings, which isn’t too common down here in the flats as opposed to the foothills.”

Jones also said that it was a mature male, not an old or sick animal.

“The final nail in the coffin was when it wandered right into someone’s house,” he said. “If we relocated it and then it returned, that would not be good.”

He said that an additional concern in using tranquilizers to re-locate the animal was that it contaminates the meat for up to 30 days with a substance similar to the animal tranquilizer and controlled drug PCP called Telazol. “Bear season opens next month, so there’s a remote chance that this bear could end up on someone’s table even though it wouldn’t be safe to eat.”

Instead, the carcass was donated to the Lummi Nation for use in meals that were to be served as part of memorial services for some tribal elders who have recently passed away. Finkbonner is the Tribal Gaming Agent for the Lummi Nation.

Finkbonner added that this is the second time that a bear has visited while he’s been away and his wife has been home.

Four years ago when the couple was living on Red Mountain outside Kendall, he went off bear hunting but soon got a call from Hathaway saying that he should have stayed home.

“There was a bear under the back porch when she called me,” he laughed, “and now it’s happened again.”