Police shoot, kill bear

LYNNWOOD — Joni Bickel wondered why the news helicopter was hovering over her neighborhood early Monday morning as she readied for work.

She had no idea an adult male black bear weighing 250 pounds was padding through her yard, passing close beneath her open bedroom window.

Police on Monday morning shot and killed the bear after it led them on a long chase that ended in the driveway of Bickel’s Lynnwood home.

The drama that ended around 6:20 a.m. in her suburban neighborhood was as frightening as it was surprising.

“You just don’t see a bear in the middle of Lynnwood,” Bickel said. “That’s not something I would anticipate.”

When she saw a police car roll into her driveway early Monday, Bickel ordered her daughters — 16, 13 and 10 — into their rooms.

She’s thankful police caught up with the bear when they did. The oldest two girls were about 15 minutes from leaving for the school bus stop.

“I hate to see the bear killed, but I would rather it be that than my daughters,” she said.

Bickel dutifully wrote a letter for her daughter, Alexa, explaining that she was late for first-period French class at Meadowdale High School because a bear had been shot in their driveway and they weren’t allowed to leave.

Police defended their decision to shoot the bear.

“We had to do what we had to do for public safety,” Lynnwood Police Department spokeswoman Shannon Sessions said.

Police aren’t trained to handle wildlife with less-lethal equipment, such as tranquilizer darts, and they didn’t have that equipment, Sessions said.

Wildlife officials said police acted appropriately.

“I don’t fault their decision at all,” state Department of Fish and Wildlife Capt. Bill Hebner said. “They have the authority and they have the duty to protect the public.”

A wildlife agent spent hours early Monday morning helping police track the bear. Specially trained bear-tracking dogs were used unsuccessfully to try to get close enough to tranquilize the bear.

When the bear moved into a wooded area, the agent left to get some rest. He planned to return after sunrise. The agent had spent most of his Sunday capturing and relocating another bear that was hanging around U.S. 2 and distracting drivers in east Snohomish County.

Ideally, bears that wander into urban areas can be immobilized and relocated, but that can’t always be the case, Hebner said.

“The script on these things isn’t in writing,” he said. “We are dealing with a wild animal and they are totally unpredictable.”

Even if a wildlife agent was at the Lynnwood home, it would not have been safe to dart the bear in that circumstance, Hebner said.

The dart must hit the right spot for the drugs to take effect, and the shot must be made at close range, he said. It can take five to 10 minutes for the drugs to kick in.

“A lot can go wrong,” he said, particularly in a suburban area near a school. Lynndale Elementary School is just blocks from where the bear was shot.

The number of shots police fired at the bear was not immediately available, Sessions said. She also was unsure whether the bear first was shot while it was crawling over a fence, or after it fell to the ground.

The animal did menace police, Sessions said.

“The bear was charging the officers when it was shot,” she said.

The bear was first spotted around 11:20 p.m. Sunday on Sandra Ferchen’s wooded property just north of city limits. Her property is part of 10 acres her grandfather bought from a logging company in the 1950s.

In hindsight, Ferchen believes the bear had been near her home for much of the day, perhaps as close as 50 feet away. She wonders if it might have been agitated by two men tearing apart an old metal building in the area.

Daisy, her white fluffy mix of Japanese shiba inu and poodle, spent a good part of the afternoon barking at the woods.

Ferchen was outside entertaining friends. They thought she was imagining things when Ferchen told them she thought she heard something.

Ferchen initially figured it was coyotes taunting her dog.

Daisy, who weighs less than 20 pounds, yapped well into the night.

When Ferchen went out to investigate after 11 p.m., she heard a low stern growl and she hightailed it inside.

She was joined outside by Dan Kier, who rents a room in the home. He first went outside in his red boxer shorts to investigate what he thought was a burglar.

A deputy sheriff arrived within 10 minutes of Ferchen’s 911 call.

“We thought he would think we’re looney tunes,” Ferchen said, referring to the rarity of a bear being in Lynnwood.

The deputy investigated and reported back that the bear was seen crossing 164th Street and was headed into the Lynnwood city limits.

Police spent more than six hours trying to keep tabs on the bear.

The bear was moving too quickly to set a live trap, Hebner said. It reached populated neighborhoods within the city limits and it was seen scaling fences with ease.

Wildlife officials said it was a black bear, even though it had a brown coat. Black bears can also be blond, brown and cinnamon.

Wildlife agents suspect the bear is the same one that had been reported in recent days near Mill Creek.

“As the population expands, some bears will often times travel looking for territory,” Hebner said. “If you head west (of Monroe) you are heading into trouble.”

The bear was spotted around Dale Way Park off 191st Street and 64th Avenue and found its way to a neighborhood northwest of the busy intersection of Highway 99 and 196th Street. The trail led to Bickel’s driveway in the 19200 block of 68th Ave. W.

The black bear population in Washington may be as high as 30,000 animals, according to Wildlife Department estimates.

Wildlife agents typically keep busy in the spring capturing wayward bears that are hungry after their winter hibernation. They often are lured into back yards looking for a quick and easy meal.

People should be wary of leaving out food, unsecured garbage and pet food, Hebner said.

“It takes everyone,” Hebner said. “Everyone has to do it. It has to be a full-court press.”

Eric Stevick: 425-339-3446, stevick@heraldnet.com

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