The Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife is attempting to trap two black bear cubs north of Lake Whatcom after their mother was lethally removed following an encounter earlier this week that resulted in non-life-threatening injuries to a jogger.
The age of the cubs is not known at this time, Whatcom County Game Warden Dave Jones told The Bellingham Herald, adding that the key to preventing incidents such as the one that resulted in the lethal removal of their mother is for area residents to properly dispose of garbage.
"We're getting conflicting reports about their size," Jones said. "If they were born last year, they should be fine on their own. If they're from this year, it's likely we'll see them in our traps pretty soon. So we'll know sooner or later."
The cubs' mother was a 5- to 6-year-old sow, Jones told The Herald, adding that WDFW had received multiple reports of a sow with two cubs in the area in recent weeks and believed the bear in Wednesday's incident was the same one.
The WDFW euthanized her after an encounter with a male jogger Wednesday, Aug. 3, along the Y Road Trail to Stewart Mountain, northeast of Bellingham resulted in the jogger suffering injuries to his hands and feet that required treatment at the hospital.
"We are extremely thankful that the victim is recovering and receiving medical care from this unfortunate encounter," WDFW Police North South Captain Jennifer Maurstad said in a WDFW release Thursday, Aug. 4, about the incident. "He did everything right during the incident and we wish him a speedy recovery. Wild animal encounters are unpredictable but, in most cases, they wish to avoid conflict as much as we do."
Jones reiterated to The Herald that the jogger did almost everything correctly before and during the encounter.
"He did a really good job," Jones said. "He was aware of his surroundings. He knew the area. ... The one thing, in talking to him, is he said he probably could have done a better job of when he first encountered the bear is stopping and turning around, but the guy did a great job."
Jones added that it didn't appear the bear wanted to fatally injure the jogger, but with cubs in tow, she likely was trying to protect them and move along.
But WDFW policy on response to dangerous wildlife complaints states that any cougars or black bears that attack a human require immediate response by a WDFW enforcement officer, including euthanizing the offending animal and submitting tissue samples for rabies testing.
"It's very unfortunate," Jones said. "None of us wanted to have to euthanize her. It's upsetting, and it's not something we enjoy doing, but it's the state's policy, and the truth is we don't have anywhere in the area to relocate a potentially dangerous bear and her two cubs if we did trap her."
The key to preventing black bear encounters, such as Wednesday's that required euthanizing the bear, falls on residents in the area properly managing their trash, Jones said.
"There is a lot of trash in that area, and to bears, that's a food source," Jones said. "This sow and her cubs hunkered down in that area for a couple of weeks because of that food source. It's important that people realize how important it is to properly dispose of their trash."
Washington state has had only one fatal black bear attack on a human, and that occurred nearly five decades ago in 1974, according to Thursday's release. Since 1970, state authorities have recorded 18 other human-black bear encounters that resulted in a documented injury, with the most recent before Wednesday's incident in 2015.