Did you hear about the bear in Tumwater? Here’s what happened

A black bear sighted on Tuesday in the Tumwater area has safely returned to a less popular area.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife received a report on Tuesday of a bear running across a runway near the Olympia Regional Airport before going to a wooded area, Becky Elder, WDFW Police communications manager, told The Olympian.

Later that day, WDFW received another report of a bear sighting near the Tumwater Police Department about half a mile away.

The report came from the police.

Tumwater Police Lt. Jennifer Kolb told The Olympian that the bear had run past one officer and climbed a tree right in front of the department,

“It had gone up fairly high,” Elder said.

WDFW staff and officers responded to the report and determined that the bear had not habituated to the Tumwater area, Elder said, so it was not a concern for public safety. WDFW decided to allow the bear to come down from the tree on its own.

By Tuesday evening, it did. Elder said WDFW pushed the bear toward a green belt, where wildlife officers believe it returned to a forested area away from humans.

WDFW did not take further action and has not received reports of the bear since.

“In the long run, it looks as though the bear just made a wrong turn, ended up in an area where it shouldn’t have continued on,” Elder said. “And then we more or less assisted with getting it going in the right direction.”

Bears like this one tend to go up green belts, foraging and looking for natural resources, Elder said. Along the way, they may end up in a more developed area and get “turned around.”

By staying in neighborhoods and relying on human food sources like trash or pet food, bears habituate to those developed areas.

“Once they kind of learn that people equals food, it’s very difficult to change that mindset,” Elder said. “In this instance, this bear wasn’t digging around at things, and so it wasn’t considered habituated in any way.”

WDFW recommends following these tips to keep from attracting bears:

  • Never intentionally feed bears or other backyard wildlife.

  • Always keep garbage cans in a garage or a sturdy building until collection day.

  • Take down seed, suet, and hummingbird feeders until late fall.

  • Clean up fallen fruit or other possible attractants around your home.

  • Remove pet food from wildlife-accessible areas and feed your pets inside.

  • Thoroughly clean barbecue grills after each use and store them in a secure building.

  • Cage and electric fence your domestic fowl and livestock pens.

  • Avoid storing food in your car.

  • If you see a bear on your property, clap your hands loudly and make your presence known.

To report other non-emergency predatory wildlife incidents like this one to WDFW, call 877-933-9847, text “tip” to 847411 or submit a report online.