Update: The Death of North Bend’s Princess Ursus Americanus

Alas, North Bend’s bear with the golden earring and her cubs have been killed.

I was going to continue with my fairy tale theme seen in the original story below, but I can’t; this just stinks.

After banging the drum for the past 5 years with 17 bear-related stories warning of what might happen if we don’t clean up our collective act, the worst HAS happened. A mother bear and her three cubs were killed by Fish and Wildlife Officers on Wednesday night.

This mother bear came out of torpor in March with three tiny cubs and started her rounds of garbage cans and bird feeders. Garbage always being a plentiful resource in North Bend, she started her process of teaching those three cubs to do the same thing.

Her behavior escalated over the next six months to the point where she was breaking into locked garages and sheds. Last Friday afternoon, a hot day, she interrupted a family picnic at a table 20 feet from their front door. The residents retreated, and the foursome sat down for a lunch in the hot sun. Did it look cute? Of course. Was it dangerous? Yes.

When she and the cubs finished their lunch, she then shoved herself through the resident’s open window and consumed a bowl of pasta salad on the kitchen counter. No amount of shouting, scolding or blowing of horns could deter her from her mission.

Over the months, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) tried to trap this bear family, but she was a clever bear and avoided numerous attempts to catch her.

Wednesday night, she broke into a van, the door closed behind her, and she was trapped. She completely destroyed the van, and the decision was made to kill her and her three cubs.

While it is very sad, I stand behind the tough decision the officers had to make. Why? Because I live in that neighborhood and saw the very scary progression of behavior. I had this bear come out of the bushes at me and spoke to one neighbor who was bluff charged and another who had major property damage from her food-seeking behavior.

I’ve seen many social media posts over the last day and a half that are very angry at the van owner. This wasn’t their fault. Her life and the lives of her cubs ended at their home, but the community shares a collective responsibility for her death.

If you,

  • Put your garbage can out early
  • Failed to secure your can during the week (bear cans are available throughout the valley)
  • Fed birds or squirrels or your pet outside
  • Left a dirty BBQ on your porch
  • Failed to clean up fallen fruit from beneath fruit trees

…..you share in the blame, full stop. I know it’s more comfortable to be able to blame someone else but stop, stop now.

I also understand that this won’t be a popular opinion, and I will likely get a whole lot of comments telling me how wrong I am.

I don’t care, and I’m not wrong.

We all killed these bears, and we need to stop. Now

[This story is developing and will be updated]

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Original Story from May 2022

Once upon a time, in the land of the Pacific Northwest, there was a quiet, quaint kingdom of the Evergreen Valley.

This valley was nestled up against a stunning snowy mountain range to the east and was far hence from the kingdoms in the west. In the beginning, settlers & native valley residents lived harmoniously in the natural beauty of this peaceful lodging.

But soft, over time, as the west became more developed, the western natural spaces disappeared, and the subjects of those kingdoms hath lost their connection to nature.

Whereas the valley kingdom was vast in dimension but humble in citizenry, the westerners did start taking notice of this magnificent, peaceful lodging leaving their more populated cities behind to start over fresh in the Evergreen Valley.

Small towns became larger, and homes were built where enormous timberlands once stood. Some valley residents resented the changes, but nevertheless, there was still plenty of room for everyone to co-exist peacefully with a small amount of effort.

This is the tale of one western princess who suffered enormous tragedy at which hour the lady hath moved to the peaceful Evergreen valley.

Photo by Ashton Mullins on Unsplash

This princess never very much did belong in the west; the neighborhood in which the lady lived didn’t understand her, and there were too many ways to be a naughty royal. The powers that be gifted the young lady a golden earring and told her she was henceforth banished from the western kingdom.

So, at which hour the princess was given the opportunity to start a new life in the valley, she took the bait, and in the blink of an eye, the lady hath found herself in a new location.

Moving can be sore and not at each moment immediately successful, but the lady hit the ground running to try. The valley hadst all the things the lady did need to live a successful life; the lady just did need a chance and some cooperation from the local villagers.

Her first location wasn’t to her liking, so the mistress hath moved a bit closer to town and did get to know her fellow forest dwellers. Initially, she tried to take advantage of the natural beauty and abundance of the area, but old demons did tempt her.

Still, the princess tried to resist temptation, met her prince and settled into a cold valley winter to await the delivery of her firstborn. The birth and spring came with a sense of renewal, but sadly her mischievous quirks put her in the wrong place at the wrong time, and her newborn had perished.

The next year was marked by self-destructive behavior made worse by townspeople who, even though they were aware of her nature, enabled her downward spiral. Another season ended with the princess fat,  in poor health and once again childing.

Her second youngster survived but the lady spent the next two years dragging the tot around to all her old haunts, looking for an easy meal, teaching her young prince lacking valor habits. The villagers now claimed to be sick of her behavior but did nothing to stop or help her.

At which hour the princess was last seen in the Evergreen Valley, she had given birth to three more royals and was dragging them around town just like the last two. By now, the local townsfolk had lost all tolerance for the princess with the golden earring, although doing nothing to change her plight, and her happily ever after appeared to now be in peril.

So where did the princess with the golden earring come from, and who is she? Well, we don’t know the where, but we do know the who.  

The princess with the golden earring, aka Daisy, Sam, or, at my house, “*&#@%^ she’s in the neighbor’s trash again,” is a LARGE female bear.

According to Rich Beausoleil, Statewide Bear &Cougar expert for the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), the department has two ear tag colors that they use on bears, red and yellow. Red=research, which means it was captured as a research animal and likely collared at one point, with no contact with people.   

A yellow ear tag (sometimes coupled with a collar) means this was a bear captured by non-research staff, most commonly officers, and was in a situation around people, such as getting into attractants like garbage, birdseed, and fruit trees. 

The princess at a conscientious home in the valley

Says Beausoleil, “Many of these bears are simply released within their home range, and the attractants addressed.  However, yellow lets us know that the bear was previously captured in a developed area; the number allows us to know exactly which bear it is, and a database is kept on its history.”

So, this bear was likely captured somewhere more populated than the Snoqualmie Valley and brought here to keep her safe.

We’re failing our bear princess tremendously.

According to the WDFW’s information on preventing conflict, “Bears tend to avoid humans. However, human-habituated bears are bears that, because of prolonged exposure to people, have lost their natural fear or wariness around people. Human-food-conditioned bears are those that associate people with food. Such bears can become aggressive in their pursuit of a meal.[1]

Furthermore, the WDFW notes that 95% of the calls to offices are the result of irresponsibility on the part of people: Access to trash, pet food, bird feeders, and improper storage of food while camping make up most of the calls.

We can lock up our attractants; this includes garbage, pet food and birdseed (including chicken feed.) Clean up around fruit trees, make sure barbeques are clean and odor-free and don’t leave personal care products (scented candles or air fresheners) outdoors.

If you see a bear, admire it from afar for a few precious moments and then yell, stomp your feet, clap your hands and convince it that people places are no fun.  

Additionally, Beausoleil requests that people report sightings of bears, especially ear-tagged bears, to our local WDFW office. Reporting sightings immediately is important; people can help bears so much more by doing so as it allows the WDFW to intervene and not let the situation progress.  

Says Beausoleil, “Many people think that if they call WDFW, the animal may be killed.  That just isn’t the case – and they aren’t doing the bear any favors – we aren’t going to kill animals for taking advantage of calories.  But we need to stop the cycle of rewards so the bear doesn’t become habituated.  That may involve the capture of the bear, but it also includes talking to people and trying to get folks to stop rewarding the bears (intentionally or unintentionally).”

So please help our valley bears by doing the right thing.

[You may also contact info@livingsnoqualmie.com for a ‘Living in Bear Country’ pamphlet and Waste Management and Republic Services offer bear cans in the area]


[1] https://wdfw.wa.gov/species-habitats/species/ursus-americanus#conflict

Comments

  1. I know I’m probably in the minority here but the bears remind me of pit bulls… great pets until they eat a kid, then not so much. So, well done Fish and Wildlife! Only took three years of escalation and destruction. Hmm… reminds me of a town about 30 miles west…

  2. Robert Baumann says

    Good luck getting humans to change their behavior. As the cartoon character, Pogo, stated decades ago (and I believe it will always hold true), “We have met the enemy and he is us”.

  3. Snoqualmiegirl says

    Thank you so much for writing this story. Hopefully the right people read this and take responsibility

  4. Sabrina Brown says

    This is so sad – but I knew, once I heard of a sow with 3 cubs, that this would be the outcome. I just don’t understand WHY people can’t understand that wild creatures need to stay wild, and providing them a source of food (intentionally or not) is going to get them killed. Think of it this way, would you rather cook a meal for yourself and your family, or have one delivered? The easiest route is the one most often taken, especially by animals.

  5. Wayne Russell says

    You might want to share this article? I remember reading about this when I was serving on Submarines in the U.S. Navy. The forest service went in and shot most bears in the area and from what I remember found human hair in the remains of one, but it wasn’t even from the missing in the article.

  6. Wayne Russell says

    Forgot to paste it in. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/deadly-grizzly-bear-attacks-changed-national-park-service-forever-180964462/

    • Melissa Grant says

      Hi Wayne, while all of that is true black bears and Grizzly bears are vastly different from each other. Yes, this mother bear could have been dangerous given the wrong circumstances for the most part people coexist with black bears just fine. We have for years, and I’ve never felt a moment of fear.

  7. I had the pleasure of numerous sitings of this momma and triplets. From my first encounter in the Spring I knew momma had her paws full with trying to keep her cubs close and their bellies full. I had a hunch momma bear would do whatever she needed to do for her cubs and per the article, she did. Wish this was not the final outcome but I know it was not the first choice for WDFW to kill the bears. It was their last choice for the safety of our neighborhood. Thank you for posting this article as I did not understand why they were killed until you communicated the behaviors momma had shown.

  8. Wow, when will people learn? I used to live in Snoqualmie Ridge and many people didn’t give a rats a$$ about doing the right thing. Why not put my garbage can out the night before? I don’t want to have to get up early to do it or it’s too hard to use the bear proof cans. This is a sad testimony about why humans can’t or won’t do what’s needed to cohabitate with wildlife. If they keep building houses further and further into natural habitats there won’t be anywhere to relocate these guys and the only resolution will be to kill them. So, so sad 😞

  9. Annie Mouse says

    I agree with the main article, and I’m sure that WDFW acted appropriately at the end—there was probably no vacancies to rehabilitate the cubs. But, friends in that area tell me of trash mismanagement that WDFW ignores. Also, had WDFW not started slowly killing the Karelian Bear Dog program several years back, and had WDFW continued its successful KBD program of hazing bears away from trouble spots, mama and cubs might now be living in the woods, working harder for food, but still alive. So, we have a failure of agencies and communities. We can do better. Otherwise, give it three years and we’ll repeat.

  10. Leave the bears alone there not 20 feet from your front door your sitting in there living space that’s sad for the bears

  11. Very sad story. As we take up more & more space bears and other wild life lose. Couldn’t they have been moved? Please keep your rubbish contained. Put it out for collection at the last possible minute. Most importantly respect all the animals with whom we share the land. We are the ones encroaching

  12. Tragic and all, but to a different point: according to the rules of Linnaeus’ universally adopted system of binomial nomenclature the species is always written lowercase.

    • Melissa Grant says

      Perhaps, but in this case it’s a title (everything is capitalized) and an imaginary fairy tale name. Artistic license and all 🙂

  13. Sounds like you should have moved to a different neighborhood. All of you. This death is on all of your hands. Despicable people, all of you.

    • Melissa Grant says

      Who exactly are you talking about here? The neighborhood on the Eastside where she originally was found? The people in Riverbend, Wilderness Rim, the Uplands or Harmon Heights where she roamed? If you’re trying to find a scapegoat for this one good luck because a whole lot of people let this bear family down. There is enough blame to cover the entire community

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