LEAVENWORTH, Wash. – Wildlife officials say they might have to euthanize two 8-month-old bear cubs that were orphaned Thursday night when a man shot and killed their mother as it fought with his dog.
The adult bear was probably attracted to the Leavenworth-area home by birdseed, pet food and gardens, a wildlife official said.
The cubs might be killed because there is no room at the two major rehabilitation facilities in Washington that raise orphaned bears without human contact until they’re ready to release into the wild, said Rich Beausoleil, bear and cougar specialist for the state Department of Fish and Wildlife. Other options are being sought for the two 35-pound cubs.
“Relocation is just not an option,” he said. “Research has shown that if we turn them out in the hills, they wouldn’t survive the winter.”
Friday morning Beausoleil went to a home on Icicle Creek Road with wildlife officer Eric Oswald, where they found the mother bear dead in the yard and two cubs on the porch of the home eating carrots.
Oswald said the homeowners felt sorry for the cubs, and fed them. He said birdseed probably attracted the mother bear into the yard.
Oswald said the man who shot the bear told him that he thought he heard raccoons making noise outside late Thursday, so he let their two dogs out to chase them off. One of the dogs, a pit bull, got into a fight with the bear, so the man got a rifle and shot the bear once in the throat from about 20 feet away, killing her, Oswald said.
The man, in his 30s, will not be cited for shooting the bear. He felt threatened for his safety and for his dog’s, he said.
The homeowner – the man’s grandmother – reported the incident Thursday night.
“All of this could have been prevented by, No. 1, not keeping food out for bears as an attractant, and 2, keeping pets in and under control,” Oswald said.
Already this year, Fish and Wildlife officers have dealt with 18 bears in the Leavenworth area – including this mother and her two cubs – that have been turning up in people’s yards. Most of the bears were relocated, he said. But three others were killed in May, two of them by homeowners and another euthanized by wildlife officials. Almost all of them were attracted to the rural homes by food, Beausoleil said.